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88-year tradition returns in Sparks
by Garrett Valenzuela
Oct 20, 2012 | 4034 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo/Garrett Valenzuela -- A youngster marches in the Jack's Carnival parade clad in his Captain America costume Friday at Sparks High School.
Tribune photo/Garrett Valenzuela -- A youngster marches in the Jack's Carnival parade clad in his Captain America costume Friday at Sparks High School.
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Courtesy of Robert Mitchell Elementary School -- Jack's Carnival parade marches down B Street in 1930, showing the longevity of the event in Sparks.
Courtesy of Robert Mitchell Elementary School -- Jack's Carnival parade marches down B Street in 1930, showing the longevity of the event in Sparks.
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SPARKS -- In its 88-year history, Jack’s Carnival has seen its share of shining moments. From Bertha the Elephant to a parade that stretched a mile down B Street, Jack’s Carnival is one of the longest standing traditions in Sparks.

However, the event has not always been the spectacle of the city and the lead in every newspaper. In recent years, the carnival has been hosted only at Robert Mitchell Elementary School and was contained to the school grounds.

The 88th anniversary of Jack’s Carnival came Friday when the event saw its first revitalization in many years. Mitchell Elementary teamed up with Sparks High School in an effort to bring the showcase costume parade back to town.

“For about the last 10 years it was only Robert Mitchell using Jack’s Carnival as a support to education and a support to the community,” said Marnie Sheffield, coordinator of the event. “This year our goal was to reach back out to the community and make sure they understood that as we support them, they support us. That’s what community is and that’s how we build a bigger and stronger community.”

Sheffield had a hand in bringing in many of the attractions to the carnival, including a cake walk, putt-putt golf, a glow room, bounce houses and more. She also helped bring in affiliates of the Reno Rodeo, Sparks Police Department and even an Air Force Fire Truck.

Sheffield said the partnership with Sparks High and Lincoln Park Elementary, to help get students and faculty out to the carnival and parade, was crucial to improving support from the surrounding schools and community.

“As we look forward, we are looking to have more schools come back and join us as we start leaning toward that 90th anniversary in 2014,” she said, adding that more than 25 local business supported the carnival this year. “It’s just fun because the families of Robert Mitchell love a parade and carnival. It supports literacy, educational field trips and classroom supplies.”

Following the parade around the Sparks High track, Mitchell Elementary Principal Meredith Johnson helped gather families outside the elementary school for dinner and games. She introduced Washoe County School District Superintendent Pedro Martinez, who was Parade Marshall with his wife and son. They shared the sense of community shown at the event.

“This proves that we have some great families in our community and we stand together as a community to support our schools,” Martinez said.

Johnson was thrilled with the turnout of parents and children on her campus, saying that she is continually amazed at the support the community brings to her school.

“(The crowd turnout) is excellent; absolutely phenomenal,” Johnson said. “Every year I have been here (3 years) the number of people that have shown up, whether it is open house, parent teacher conferences or this carnival, it is more than double the time before. When you’re talking about that, it is just growing and growing.”

Johnson said the tradition of Jack’s Carnival has been kept alive by the teachers of the school, who see their mentors and predecessors leave, but know the event must go on. She said Robert Mitchell Elementary is the perfect place for an 88-year-old event, considering the school’s rich history in Sparks.

“The consistency of teachers who stayed on in this building and carried on the tradition from the teachers who they worked with in previous years, that is what keeps it thriving and keeps it going year after year,” she said. “If you think about the age of Reno and Sparks, something that is 88 years old is almost unheard of. It has tremendous history in that almost every week someone says my grandfather went (to Mitchell Elementary). To have it continue over time and by having it at the same time every year adds unity to the Sparks area.”

The staff of Robert Mitchell Elementary will be hard at work in the coming years planning for the epic 90th anniversary of Jack’s Carnival. Johnson said they will be reaching out to as many schools as possible to bring the event back to its high status in the community.

“We have big dreams for what it can be, and it will involve not only this school and playground but it will be other schools and local businesses,” Johnson said. “We want to have a tremendous tie and connection between the businesses in Sparks and this school because we all know that we need to work very closely together in order for the students and families to thrive.”

Find out more about Jack’s Carnival, its history and the history of Robert Mitchell Elementary School at www.robertmitchellelementary.com.
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