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Sparks was an afterthought of the railroad's,
created to the east of Reno in 1904 to replace Wadsworth as the big switching yard on this
section of the Southern Pacific Railroad.|
Family oriented and hard-working, Sparks was so solid and dull that it sometimes became the butt of local jokes. Early example: "Reno is so close to Hell you can see Sparks."
In 1907 a reform-minded city council outlawed the popular local pastime of driving up to a saloon in a buggy and having drinks at the curb. Other than the endless banging of the boxcars in the switching yard and the clanging and hissing and whistling and squealing of the through trains in and out of the station, everything was quiet in Sparks for nearly 50 years as the little city grew slowly with the railroad.
In the 1950s Sparks changed. Acre upon acre of brown composition roofs blossomed up out of the brown dirt as one curbed-and-guttered subdivision after another appeared in the grazing lands on the northeast. For more than a dozen years the growth continued, and Sparks became even quieter as a residential community in which the railroad played a much diminished role. In the 1970s Sparks began to grow in a new and unexpected direction. Family farms and pasturelands south of the city were transmogrified into lowrise warehousing, small manufacturing plants and light industry connected by an asphalt grid of new streets.
Now Sparks is changing again. John Ascuaga gave Sparks its first skyscraper, and now the homely old business structures of Harriman are being replaced or restored to a confectionary Victorian dream of luxury and romance they never aspired to 90 years ago. B Street - oops, Victorian Avenue - is bright with lights and lively with public events the year around now.
Some of the architecture may be more Walt Disney than Queen Victoria, but there's no doubt that the vivaceous scene downtown reflects a brighter, more inviting character for Sparks than ever before. Sparks is Nevada's fourth-largest city and offers abundant services to travelers. The Chamber of Commerce provides area information at the little railroad station by the Pyramid Way freeway onramp at Victorian Avenue.
In Sparks any discussion of food starts (and sometimes ends) with John Ascuaga's Nugget, where a huge new hotel towers and immense parking garage were built on the enormous success of the eight restaurants - the Rotisserie Room, the Oyster Bar, Trader Dick's, and others - in this otherwise unremarkable gambling hall. Some of Nevada's best food is served at the Nugget, but there are other enjoyable options in Sparks as well.
The Silver Club across the Avenue has a grand buffet and restaurant, and Jack's Coffee Shop down the street serves a classic menu. The Great Basin Brewery is a local favorite with prize-winning beer, ale, porter and stout on tap. One example: the unique Harvest Ale, surely the only brew in the world made with piñon pine nuts, juniper berries and sagebrush. The food's good too, served outside in warm weather, and there's an entertainment schedule strong on acoustic (non-amped) music
Enlightening the atmosphere on Sparks' east side is Wild Island, a water park devoted to providing enjoyment exhilarating or soothing as you please. The mountain peaks against the western sky sky seem especially lovely and far away from the splashing sprays of water and the eager voices of the children, and the summer sky is never brassier than when observed from an innertube meandering around on the long, slow sissy ride around the perimeter of the park. To experience the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat in the mildest possible way, you can also stop in at Adventure Golf next door and go a round or two.
Calendar of Annual Events
JULY & AUGUST
Welcome to Sparks
These businesses are pleased to welcome you
GREAT BASIN BREWING COMPANY.