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That time of year again
by Garrett E. Valenzuela
Jun 19, 2013 | 1044 views | 0 0 comments | 49 49 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Star Spangled Sparks fireworks display lights up the evening sky every year in Sparks.
The Star Spangled Sparks fireworks display lights up the evening sky every year in Sparks.
SPARKS — Fourteen years ago, the relentlessness of John Ascuaga began an event that has become a famed display of American pride and booming aerial theatrics — Star Spangled Sparks. And this year’s event will combine new features with classic favorites.

Stephen Ascuaga said he remembers the first Star Spangled Sparks firework show, which launched off the parking garage near Century Theaters in Victorian Square, and how his father badly wanted to have a local fireworks show.

“It was 14 years ago,” Stephen said Tuesday during a luncheon for sponsors, “And it was one of those stories where my dad heard there was no firework show again for the Truckee Meadows. We are about three and half weeks out and my dad says ... well I won’t say exactly what he said, but it was fairly clean. He kept saying ‘We are going to do it, we’ll do it!’”

Thus began the tradition of 4th of July crowds flocking to Victorian Square, finding a comfortable spot and tilting their heads toward the skies for the fireworks display. Beth Cooney, executive director of marketing for the Nugget, said the first show was one of her fondest memories of the event and added that the display and the crowds continue to grow and evolve each year.

“Every year it just seems to get bigger and better,” Cooney said, “And I think the neatest thing about it is to see the people roll in about 7 p.m. and it seems like the crowd starts exploding exponentially and everybody is having fun out there. It truly is a Sparks experience.

“This is one of the most unique shows that our fireworks company (Lantis Fireworks) does across the country because we launch from three places and it makes it a dimensional presentation that is unlike any other place. I think it is great that the Ascuaga family really wants to do this for the community and make it work for everybody.”

The 14th annual Star Spangled Sparks will again feature its kids area dedicated to bringing a family atmosphere to the event and allowing children plenty to do while passing time until the fireworks show.

Live music from the Buddy Emmer Band will play throughout the night in downtown Sparks until the choreographed music begins for the firework show.

New to the event this year is the Sparks Summer Heat Car Show taking place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Victorian Square, an event that Cooney said hopes to grow in the future. The show’s $10 entry fee supports the Honor Flight program, taking local veterans to visit war memorials in Washington D.C.

Also new to the 4th of July celebration is an Instagram photo contest held through the Nugget’s Facebook page, using the hashtag #patrioticsparks. The contest will run from 5 p.m. July 3 through 5 p.m. July 7 and Cooney said it will allow anyone attending the event to send in their pictures and be interactive with the Nugget. Winners have a chance to win dinner and lodging at the Nugget.

“A lot of fireworks across the country have fallen off,” Cooney said of the event, “And many properties aren’t doing them anymore — Reno is not even doing them anymore — so we are just excited to be able to have this and continue to cruise on the way that we have and really make a big deal about it. I think it is a really big opportunity to give back to the community and it is a great community effort with the City of Sparks, all our local sponsors and everyone who comes together for the event.

“I think the big difference with this one is that it is only a one-day event, which means it is a lot of work for only one day, and it requires everyone to pull together like fire, city police, the rail yard to make it happen and make sure it is safe and is a good show.”

The Chamber will once again bring back its portion of Star Spangled Sparks at the Sparks Marina, an event that features hot air balloon races and tethered rides, an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast, the Model Dairy Boat Regatta and the Sparks Idol show. Executive Director of The Chamber Len Stevens said the festivities will kick off at 5:30 a.m. and go until mid-afternoon.

“How fortunate we are that we have a place like the Nugget who continued to do a fireworks show when everyone else stopped and couldn’t afford to do these things,” Stevens said. “They have stayed with it and I don’t think any one person forgets their first fireworks show. It is a great day for the city and it is a fun day because it is a family day.”

Lantis Fireworks will close out the night with a 17-minute display featuring about “15,000 individual shot effects throughout the night,” according to show coordinator Bryan Leiran. He said the show will again launch from the Nugget’s two towers and from the Union Pacific rail yard while adding in some mirroring effects from all three stations.

The Nugget will be updating any potential wind delays during the event through KKOH News Talk 780, its Facebook page at or from the Twitter handle @janugget. Leiran said wind is the only force of nature that can inhibit the firework show from launching during the evening.

“Last year we were really worried about the wind,” Leiran said. “We can shoot through rain, snow and just about anything, but wind is the one thing that we cannot do to compromise the safety. We don’t want to compromise safety.”
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