Beginning with the tree-lighting ceremony Friday evening, Sparks will ring in the holiday season with classic attractions like the Christmas Parade, an appearance from Santa Claus and a 50-foot tall tree brought in from Garibaldi, Ore.
Francine Burge, special events coordinator for the City of Sparks, said there will be plenty of new additions to the classic Sparks event this year. She said retaining many of the traditions were no-brainers to keep around and the additions serve to improve the event.
"We do have a lot of history behind the event. I was given a lot of notes and we are holding on to a lot of those traditions. And I am also putting my own spin on things," said Burge, who is planning the Sparks Hometowne Christmas for the first time.
Burge said one new attraction will be an "über-band" made up of all middle and high school band students in Sparks schools in what will be called the Mayor's Own Marching Band. The idea generated by Timothy Reynolds of Spanish Springs High School and the band will be made up of about 250 members.
Another new feature to Sparks Hometowne Christmas will be the location of annual craft vendors. Rather than having them line the streets, Burge has decided to utilize the newly-renovated Sparks Heritage Museum to house a craft fair.
“They have already had a huge response from the vendors and their building looks great so this will give people a chance to get a look inside and enjoy more history of the city,” Burge said. “We have had a long relationship with our sister city Garibaldi and they will be kicking off the parade with their color guard this year.”
The IndieReno Craft Faire will be from 6-9 p.m. Friday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. The Living Stones Church will be providing sing-along Christmas carols to open up the tree lighting ceremony, and Santa Claus will be inside the Glendale Schoolhouse from noon to 1:30 p.m. and from 3-4 p.m. Saturday.
Burge said the Hometowne Christmas relies on partnerships with many of its sponsors, one of which has been a part of the event for more than 20 years.
“I don’t think the event could happen without the help of the Hot August Nights members volunteering,” Burge said. “They have some long-term volunteers that don’t really need any direction because they have been helping out for so long. They make sure everything in the parade runs smoothly and looks good.”
Tony Marini, executive director of Hot August Nights, said members of the organization will be working on the back and side streets throughout the parade, ensuring things go off without a hitch. He said the group’s relationship with the city keeps them coming back each year.
“Sparks is a major part of our organization and we like to think we are a major part of the city. Helping out during this event is one way we can show them,” Marini said. “We are always going to be there to help whenever they need us and we enjoy being a part of this tradition. I think it really shows the camaraderie and the community support we have. Being behind the scenes with the members and watching them pull off everything they do in basically five hours is incredible.”
Marini, who was a former parade judge, said the long line of floats is always a favorite of the crowd. He said the event being held during the busy holiday season provides a “breath of fresh air” for Sparks residents.
“The parade is a staple of Sparks. It helps kick off the Christmas weekend for families and the kids really get into it with Santa being there,” Marini said.
Burge said the Hometowne Christmas tradition has become an embodiment of the Sparks community and provides a small-town feel for all ages to enjoy.
“I think the reason we continue to do the Hometowne Christmas is in the name. It emulates a small, home-town parade that not everybody does but they are great fun because they are family friendly,” she said.