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Crowds enjoy family, freedom and fun at the Sparks Marina
by Jill Lufrano -
Jul 04, 2012 | 2327 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune/John Byrne - A balloon floats above the Sparks Marina on Wednesday morning.
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SPARKS — Sharon Craig of Reno turned the grilling steaks as if she were a professional grill master.

“You name it, I’ve got it,” Craig said, as she turned over another sizzling slab.

With a pile of seared ribs on the side, her family waited for the Fourth of July barbecued meal beneath a tent alongside tens of hundreds of revelers at the Sparks Marina.

Some busied themselves by splashing in the cool water beneath the beating sun, which reached well into the upper 80s Wednesday. Some shopped at the craft booths that offered many items including jewelry, vitamins, hair pieces, art and goods made by hand.

Visitors also strolled the paths and were caught up by the offerings of local agencies that offered free emergency photo identification for children, and political stickers and pamphlets of all kinds from candidate groups hoping to garner votes for this year’s election cycle.

For Craig, the event was a homecoming of the best kind.

“It means togetherness, family, time to be with one another,” Craig said, “because time is short for everyone. It means a lot to me. I really feel the love. I feel peace of mind. Everybody’s just loving.”

Craig, 61, hadn’t seen many of her relatives in nearly 40 years, she said.

“I was scared at first,” she said.

With a smile beaming from her face, she was quickly settling into her new home of one year.

“I’ve never been out of California,” she said. “I fell the energy and the love. I can’t ask for anything more than that. Being together. I thought this day would never come true.”

For many, the excitement for Independence Day meant many things at the Sparks landmark.

As numerous activities took place throughout the day — beginning with hot air balloon rides at 6 a.m., a Kiwanis Club pancake feed, a fun run/walk by the Sparks Parks & Recreation Department, a free bounce house and kids’ games, a presentation of the color guard by the Nevada Air National Guard, a boat race in the marina, a rock-climbing wall and a talent show — everyone had something to do.

Jaymie Eckman of Sparks said the day meant “freedom,” as well as just getting out in the sun.

“I just like to look around,” Eckman said.

The talent show, called “Sparks Got Talent,” was sponsored and organized by The Chamber — Reno-Sparks, Northern Nevada, and was open to anyone and everyone who wanted to show off their gifts.

A production company held tryouts June 23 and picked the top performers in adult and junior singing, dancing and specialty performance. The event allowed locals to participate in singing, dancing, performance demonstrations, magic and choreographed demonstrations.

Some singers who were chosen to perform Wednesday had to sing without musical accompaniment, and dedicated their songs to relatives and friends.

“I Just Called to Say I Love You” was performed by Kevin Keser, a local who dedicated his finely executed number to his boyfriend, Chris.

Lisa Mancini of Sparks said she attends the talent show every year.

“It’s wonderful,” Mancini said. “All these people put themselves out there. We have amazing talent in the Reno-Sparks area.”

One contestant, Julia Curtis, 15, performed in the younger division and has taken home first place a few times in the past. One win garnered Curtis a $150 prize, she said.

“I think it’s really fun to show what I can do and share what I have been doing,” Curtis said.

Curtis later found she won the junior competition Wednesday evening, taking home $250.

Adult singer Tasha Wittaker, 27, the mother of an 11-month-old daughter, said she sang as a way to “show off” to her baby.

“It was a little nerve-wracking at first,” she said. “It was OK. As long as I have the beat in my head, I’m usually OK.”

In the adult singing category, Ashley Ann Farley won first place, taking home $250 prize money. Anthony Frank Bengochia won $250 and first place in the dancing competition.

In the “specialty performance” competition, a man who could hold his body weight on one hand above swords won $250, surpassing a performer who portrayed a comedienne who performed a number dedicated to “I Love Lucy.”

The “overall performance” prize and $300 went to Sarah Pearman, an adult singer for her crowd-pleasing ability and overall talent, according to judges.
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Crowds enjoy family, freedom and fun at the Sparks Marina by Jill Lufrano -

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