So, the city hired a firm of experts to come up with this “brand.” After some research and boardroom brainstorming, this firm, Destination Development, presented the idea of “Sparks: Nevada’s Festival City.” The impetus for this idea was, naturally, the handful of festivals that already take place here. But there was a catch: The plan necessitates attracting 200 event dates in addition to the ones already on the calendar. Needless to say, this idea will be a long time in coming, if it ever comes at all.
When the idea was presented in February, the slogan and concept seemed pretty lame. How easy is it to say, “Here’s a great idea to brand your city, now all you have to do is make your city match the brand.” I could have come up with something just as good or better if the city had paid me the $114,000 it gave to Destination Development.
Well, get out your checkbooks, City Council, because this week my wheels got turning.
At the Sparks Planning Commission meeting Wednesday, a company called Tahoe Reno Commercial Center presented a plan for a solar energy field about 10 miles east of the city limits. The planners approved the permit for the idea, which, according to a source at statewide power company NV Energy, would be the largest solar energy project in Nevada.
Biggest in the state, eh? I have always been fascinated by the classic Americana concept of the giant roadside attraction that took hold in the early 1900s as cross-country travel by car became more accessible. Las Vegas and Reno were built on the concept of gaudy visuals that tempt drivers to pull off the road and plop down their money — everybody recognizes the Vegas’ waving cowboy and the Reno Arch. But I’m mostly talking about things like the World’s Largest Buffalo in North Dakota or the World’s Largest Pineapple in Australia or the World’s Largest Catsup Bottle in Illinois. America is full of these wondrous giants and they seem to get a lot of attention, so maybe Sparks should jump on the “World’s Largest” bandwagon. It won’t take more effort than adding 200 festival days, so why not give it a try?
We already have Scheels, touting itself as the World’s Largest Sporting Goods Store, and Golden Eagle Regional Park might very well be the World’s Largest Softball Complex. Maybe we can get this new solar field developer to expand the idea to be not just Nevada’s Largest Solar Energy Field but the World’s Largest Solar Energy Field. Most places only have one “World’s Largest” but Sparks could have three right off the bat!
Of course, I have a few modest suggestions of my own.
We could start by bouncing off some of Sparks’ current festivities. The Best in the West Rib Cook-Off is a week away and features competition for best taste and quantity eaten, but why not World’s Largest Rib? With the way big food companies process meats anyway, it’s feasible to think Tyson or Hormel could figure out a way to reconstitute meat and bone to form a 200-pound rib. Imagine the TV exposure by having a yearly competition to create it. The rib could be on display all year for people to see (with all the preservatives, it will stay attractive on a spit as it slowly turns under artistic lighting).
Don’t forget Hot August Nights. Having formerly worked for a classic car magazine, I know there are grease monkeys all over the country who would love to build the World’s Biggest Hot Rod. It could steal a chunk of the crowds who might otherwise not come to Sparks if it sat on display on the corner of Victorian Avenue and Pyramid Highway. It would even get attention from the hippie crowd who would call it the World’s Largest Gas Guzzler.
In conjunction with Hot August Nights, old-fashioned diner Scooper’s on Prater Way could hire the World’s Largest Carhop. There would be an audition of huge people on roller skates (that in itself would be a great reality TV show) and the winner would don the appropriate skirt and funny hat to serve burgers and fries and milk shakes. What would be even better is if the World’s Largest Carhop was a man and he still had to wear the skirt. The winner would also get to eat all the Scooper’s food he or she wants to ensure that the exercise of the job didn’t take the “large” out of World’s Largest Carhop.
Sticking with the food theme, we could have the World’s Largest Mayoral Girth. This would be good for both Reno and Sparks, with Bob Cashell and Geno Martini battling it out for the title each year. Perhaps the yearly winner could be named during the Rib Cook-Off with each mayor downing as many ribs as possible in a last-minute effort to add inches.
Big signs have been a staple for casino towns, so why not continue in that vein with World’s Largest Foreclosed Home Sign? World’s Largest Union Picket Sign? Hey, how else do you think the foreclosed home got built?
A lot of places have giant replicas of significant local animals, so Sparks could do World’s Largest Bighorn Sheep. Behind the giant sheep would be World’s Largest Hunter (again renamed by hippies as World’s Largest Gun-Toting Redneck).
There is a lot of potential for Sparks in the World’s Largest whatever category. I can hear the cash registers ringing now.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go have the World’s Biggest Beer.
Nathan Orme is the editor of the Sparks Tribune. He can be reached at email@example.com.