Summer has been the busiest event season for the city in recent years and this year looks to be more of the same, according to Francine Burge, who manages special events for Sparks Parks and Recreation. Burge said Thursday that summer will be jam-packed with events, but the “shoulder months” of April, May, October and November will be her target for new events.
“Our event season is really full in the summer time, so now I am coming in and looking for more opportunities. I am looking to expand it,” Burge said via phone. “One of the areas I saw last year was October. I think the weather here is beautiful in October and I think we can really maximize our event days between those shoulder months.”
Burge outlined some new events coming to the city of Sparks, though they are not entirely ‘new.’ Touching Trucks is one event making the move from Reno to Sparks. It allows kids a chance to climb inside big-rigs, ranging from fire trucks to dump trucks, while raising money for the Nevada Partnership for Inclusive Education. Another newcomer from Reno is Cops & Burgers, which benefits the Special Olympics. It will bring every law-enforcement agency in the area out for a massive barbeque.
The city has also added some family-oriented holiday events, beginning with Sunday’s Shamrock Shuffle 5K, sending participants through the streets of downtown Sparks. Along the same lines, the Sparks Rotary Rabbit Run will bring a 10K run from Scheels to the city on March 31.
“A lot of the smaller events you can probably gauge about a year,” Burge said of the timeline of planning events. “There is one I have been working on that is going to come next year in June of ‘14, and I am also working on things for 2015, but those are larger events that need more time to percolate to see whether or not we can make them work, and to set up the infrastructure to make sure it would be there for those events.”
The event season never ends for Burge, who said Thursday that the city’s branding move to an event-centric location only excites her to earn the description. She said the brand was a big selling point for her to come on board with the city.
“It has actually been really exciting that I have gotten the kind of support I have gotten not only from the City Council, but also the Mayor and the City staff,” Burge said. “We are working very lean and mean and we don’t have a lot of extra time as far as money and resources go, but they all know it is a priority so we all try to do everything that we can.”
While the thrill of the challenge aids Burge in attempting to land new events, she said plenty of challenges litter the path. While money is at the forefront, it is not the only obstacle she battles.
“I think one challenge is are that some of our best venues are completely booked,” she said. “The Marina is so popular, not only with events but even for people every day. The average use is about 1,000 people per day, so to displace people for events is kind of ‘iffy.’ You really have to choose them well.
“The other part is going back to Victorian Square because not only is that where the heart of our city is, but it also helps the downtown merchants. That venue is really needing a lot of work. It has been beaten down by some of the events. We don’t really have a program right now for asset preservation, so it is part of the Strategic Plan that we are looking at ways we can put money back into that venue so that we can make it better for events and better for merchants to open up more shops down there.”
When asked how long she thinks it will take the City of Sparks to earn the brand “It’s Happening Here” and become the ‘Event City,’ she simply replied it’s never-ending.
“I think it is a constant. You are always earning the brand,” Burge said. “Any entity that has a brand they are always going to struggle to make sure they stay true to it because you can experiment. Sometimes things work and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes you have resources to put toward your brand and sometimes you don’t. It is going to be a constant ebb and flow.”
As for what to expect in the fall, after wrapping up a heavy summer event season, Burge said keeping the City of Sparks (www.cityofsparks.us) website refreshed in the internet browser is a must.
“I know I have some things that I can’t comment on because they are not ready, but I do have some exciting things that are going to be coming in the fall in those shoulder months,” Burge said. “We have got a good lineup right now but it is going to keep changing.”