SPARKS – Fourth of July celebrations started early and ended late here Monday, as thousands took part in the city’s many freedom festivities 235 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
While fireworks and flyovers concluded the night, the day began for many residents and tourists at the Sparks Marina, where a milk carton boat race regatta and talent show captured attention.
Acoustic and a capella versions of Lady Gaga and Christina Aguilera songs wowed onlookers at the Sparks’ Got Talent event, a local take on the American Idol craze.
Winners included Nelly Reynolds (dance), Lindy Foreman (young adult singers), Rebecca Holman (adult singers) and Kelsey Burt for performance of the day.
Grant Davis, a 14-year-old from Carson City, sang “That’s Life” by Frank Sinatra during the young adults singing portion of the talent show.
“I had a lot of fun,” he said.
Councilwoman Julia Ratti said, “I think it’s impressive how each year the talent gets better and better.”
Meanwhile, families and friends gathered for cookouts, local radio stations broadcast live and local vendors offered up tasty food and beverages, such as the all-American hot dog, snow cones and fresh-squeezed lemonade.
“We are going to stay a couple hours, have drinks, let the kids play, then go up to the hills in Spanish Springs and watch the fireworks,” said resident Manuel Diaz while enjoying the afternoon at the marina with his family. “To me, it’s the day where our people got their freedom. It’s a big event.”
Melanie Robbins took time to perform a civic duty on Independence Day, helping people register to vote for the upcoming special election for the state’s U.S. congressional district 2 seat in September.
“After this we are going to head to the Sparks theatre, then leave and watch the fireworks,” she said as her two children enjoyed a swim in the marina.
As afternoon settled into evening, thousands began to pack Victorian Square.
The Las Vegas Road Show brought live entertainment while clowns, face painters and water fountains delighted children of all ages.
Every year the city’s Independence Day celebration grows bigger and more contagious, bringing in more money, new events and new people to commemorate the birth of America.
The city’s Tourism and Marketing Committee allocated funds to both the Northern Nevada Chamber of Commerce and John Ascuaga’s Nugget casino for the 2011 Star Spangled Sparks event, and an expanded calendar and additional vendors made this year’s attendance likely the largest on record, city officials said.
Last year alone about 15,000 people crammed downtown Sparks for the fireworks show, and with the economy and high gas prices halting summer travel plans for some, local officials believe that number increased this time around.
“It’s the premiere event in northern Nevada,” said Councilman Ron Smith, adding that Sparks really shines with its fireworks show.
Mayor Geno Martini agreed.
“I think this is the event that lets you know what Sparks is all about,” he said last month at the unveiling of this year’s holiday events.
Councilwoman Ratti zeroed in on the appeal of the city’s Fourth of July celebrations, noting that it draws both residents and tourists alike.
“We’re lucky to have businesses put investments in the community” to make Star Spangled Sparks a success for all, she said.
Of course, no Independence Day celebration is complete without a commemoration of those who have fought and died for America’s freedoms and those doing so right now in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I think of all the soldiers out there fighting to keep us free,” Councilman Smith said.
The city of Sparks partnered with Blue Star Mothers of America to place 20 banners featuring the names and photos of current military service members from the Truckee Meadows at the Victorian Square plaza. The banners will remain in place through Veterans Day.
The Fourth of July would also not be complete without a stirring rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner.” Julia Curtis, last year’s winner in the kid’s division of the Sparks’ Got Talent show, performed the national anthem just prior to the start of the fireworks show.
Then the night sky filled with bursts of red, white and blue, lights sparkling bright above the high desert for about 25 minutes.
Oohs and aahs could be heard during the show.
It was a fitting end to a day full of pomp, full of spirit and full of celebration, a reminder that the best things in life are born in freedom.
To see more pictures from Star Spangled Sparks, check out our Week in Review section in this Sunday’s print edition.