Archive for the ‘Tourism’ Category

Sparks Council and windbags from Chicago

October 26, 2009

By David Farside

Oct. 19, 2009

At last the Sparks City Council is finally trying to do something right. Its eclectic Tourism and Marketing Committee has a new slogan to attract tourism. The slogan “It’s happening here” will be used as a basis for the city’s new brand. Wow! I’m really impressed. The problem is, after all these years they still don’t know what’s happening here. And they won’t know for another four or five years.

After Sparks residents blasted Councilman Ron Schmitt’s Tourmark committee for suggesting Sparks should convert Victorian Square to a festival of clowns, Mayor Geno Martini said we will never change our nickname as “the Rail City,” but we have to get tourists to come here to know what the Rail City is all about. If we’re not going to change our name, then why don’t we just promote ourselves as the Rail City?

Councilwoman Julia Ratti questioned the “flimsy” research on the project and warned “if it takes 20 years, it’s not going to be effective.” Obviously, she’s right.

As I mentioned in a past column, a common theme needs to be the basis for any promotion of our area. In Saturday’s edition of the Tribune, columnist Harry Spencer suggested a theme based on our “Old West” heritage of mining, railroads and local western history. He makes a good point.

During the mining boom, the “Silver Queen” of Virginia City was notorious from California to St. Louis. And because of the railroad, the city of Sparks was the economic gateway to San Francisco. The City by the Bay prospered on the back of both mining and the railroad.

Maybe we should take a look and see at how other cities have used their historical nicknames to successfully promote themselves.

New York City did not get its nickname the “Big Apple” because it grew big apples. Some claim the term described a madam in a New York City brothel called “Eve.” That was later disputed by most of the patrons of the garden in paradise.

Actually, the first published reference to New York as the popular fruit was written in 1921. In his May 21 New York morning telegraph column, John J. Fitzgerald wrote that the L.T. Bauer string of race horses were scheduled to start for “the Big Apple” after a prosperous spring campaign at Bowie and Havre de Grace. The Big Apple was a New York City racetrack and when a jockey or owner raced at the Big Apple, they made it to the big time.

In the early 1960s, the New York Convention and Visitors Authority finally recognized a good thing when they saw it. They officially began marketing and promoting tourism to NYC using the “Big Apple” as the city’s nickname.

Nicknames seem to stick in the memories of history. In the late 1800s, the city of Chicago was referred to as the “Big Onion.” The name Chicago derives from the Algonquin word for both wild onion or skunk. Either way, it is a fitting description of Chicago.

The city of skunks is also known as the “Windy City.” You would think it referred to the strong, cold and wet wind blowing in from the great lake of Michigan. Not so!

According to the Chicago Daily Tribune, in the 1850s two Chicago businessmen, John Stephen Wright and William Bross, traveled to the east coast and used town squares and public soap boxes to shout out the qualities of Chicago. Because of their boasts and bragging about the city, the easterners called them “windbags.” Everyone else from Chicago was called just plain windy. It’s rumored the business men started a new tradition. They sent big bags of wind to all the politicians in the country. On arrival they added their own hot air and the rest is history –– only kidding.

Philadelphia has been advertised and promoted as the “City of Brotherly Love.” Philadelphia is a Greek word for brotherly love. The city used the nickname to promote the image of itself around the world. Just as New York City and Chicago used their historical nicknames as a theme to attract new visitors and tourism to their metropolises.

Our local historical roots were cultivated in the mines of Virginia City, in the settlements of Genoa, the gambling halls of downtown Reno and the politics of Carson City. Our “City of Trembling Leaves” is nurtured by majestic Lake Tahoe, the jewel of the high sierras. Our mountain ski trails and Donner Pass is known worldwide by both travelers and historians.

The city of Reno does not have a monopoly on promoting itself as the local center of attention. The city of Sparks is also the hub for special events and the gateway to the Sierras. Instead of trying to create a new image for Sparks, our theme should promote our historical past and the surrounding beauty of the high Sierras –– not just as a tourist destination for gamblers to fill hotel rooms for three days but as a vacation paradise for skiers, sight seers and families. The family concept didn’t work in Las Vegas because Vegas has nothing to offer outside of gaming. It could work here. Just a thought.

In politics it’s always easy to prefer to defer. The Reno Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority has failed to represent the city of Sparks fairly in its promotion of the area or on its logo. It’s time for the city council of Sparks to do what the RSCVA can’t or won’t do. If it too prefers to defer, then it is evident it just received its latest shipment of windbags from Chicago.