Annual Splash ‘n’ Sparks at UTEP

This year it was on July 1, Friday. I am not sure if it is held on the same day every year. The full name of the event is Splash ‘n’ Sparks Appreciation Extravaganza. UTEP has arranged this event for the 18th time this year; that is, it has been 17 years since the first Splash ‘n’ Sparks was held. Kudos to everyone who arranged the event year after year. The event is like a fair except that there is not much business aspect of it. This is a big family event. We got a chance to attend two years in a row including this year. I think, only employees and stuffs of UTEP, their families, relatives and friends can attend. Employees receive complementary tickets for their immediate family members. The tickets include entrance and food coupons. Tickets need to be purchased on site for relatives and friends who are not living under the same roof as the employee. We are not telling the reader whether we attended the  Splash ‘n’ Sparks as UTEP employees or as relatives/friends of an employee. Either way, the experience will remain as exciting.

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A photo of a few tickets. The tickets should be purchased or collected at the entrance.

The event is held inside and around the UTEP Student Recreation Center. The address is 3450 Sun Bowl Dr, El Paso, TX, 79902.  The event started at 5:30PM this year. Of course, parking was an issue like any other event. We reached there before 5:30PM. We were able to park near the intersection of Sun Bowl Drive and Kern Drive. People coming later than us had to park further away. The event parking map was already published in the internet. The map is provided below.

Event map found online before Splash. If you have kids and a short walk is preferable over longer ones, we suggest that you go little bit early.
Event map found online before Splash ‘n’ Sparks. We suggest that you go there a bit earlier than the start time if you have kids and a short walk is preferable over longer ones.

Crossing the Sun Bowl Dr. for a family with little kids could be a trouble. Thanks to the nice police officers who were controlling the traffic at that time to help all the families cross the road.

Cops helping families with kids cross the road during the event evening.
Police officers helping families cross the Sun Bowl Drive during the event.

We collected the food (burgers, hotdogs, chips, drinks, and water) from the food court and ate them before any activity. In last few years, we have learnt that keeping our toddler well-fed is mandatory if we want him and us to enjoy any event. Anyway, we started to visit the stalls around. Many of the stalls were in a street by the UTEP Student Recreation Center.

Most of the stalls are at the left side of this street.
Most of the stalls are at the left side of this street. Additionally, there were some activities including slip and slide, trampoline, and water ballon splash.

Another part of the Splash ‘n’ Sparks event was in the University (Soccer) Field. Several of the activities were in the field. We were excited to see the green grass but soon we figured out that the soccer field itself had synthetic grass but the surrounding area was covered by real grass. However, synthetic grass was not able to take away the excitement.

The University (Soccer) Field on the day of the Splish 'n' Splash event.
The University (Soccer) Field on the day of the Splash ‘n’ Sparks event.

A few of the activities in the Splash ‘n’ Sparks Appreciation Extravaganza are described below with pictures.

Slip and Slide: This is a long plastic sliding place. The other end of the slide had water to capture the body of the sliding person. We saw one boy sliding. Not too many people were interested although the slip and slide looked very tempting.

The slip and slide place.
The slip and slide.

The other end of the slip and slide.
The other end of the slip and slide.

Water balloon splash: This was comparatively a more crowded place than the other activities on this street (Slip and Slide, and Velcro Wall). Kids were smashing the water balloons and enjoying the splash.

The water ballon splash and the trampoline were placed side by side. Water related activities seem to attract more adults and kids!
The water ballon splash and the velcro wall were placed side by side. Water related activities seem to attract people of all ages!

Velcro wall: The velcro wall was empty when we went there. This could be because it was a bit intimidating for little kids. Definitely, teens enjoy such a wall more than toddlers.

The Velcro wall was more intimidating than I expected.
The Velcro wall was more intimidating than I expected. I am not sure if toddlers will enjoy it. 🙂 

An interesting business model for kids: There were a few booths where children could play a few games to earn synthetic money. The activities included fishing plastic-fish from water using a magnetic fishing pole, ring tossing, and bowling. Our son was not an expert at any of these activities. However, he enjoyed the magnetic fishing activity. He was able to earn some synthetic bucks at every booth. Since this is a family event, the attendants at the stalls were probably instructed to give reward to all the kids even if someone does not win. By the way, I think all/most of the booth-attendants were UTEP students. Kids could redeem the synthetic earnings at another booth for toys like whistles, springs, balls, plastic ducks, and other items. Our son was able to secure a plastic ball which he adores till date (three days after the event when I am writing this sentence).

Bungee run: In bungee running, a person runs as far as possible while she/he is connected to an elastic rope, which is anchored to a fixed point. The activity was built on inflatable courses. Kids were enjoying it a lot and the place was quite crowded reflecting the level of fun they were having.

A side view of the Bungle Run.
A side view of the bungee run in the Splash ‘n’ Sparks.

A front view of the Bungle Run.
Front view of a bungee run.

Bounce house: The bounce house at the Splash ‘n’ Sparks event became the main attraction of many of the toddlers. There were inflated animals inside the house. More colorful animals were placed at the surrounding base, making the house an attractive place.

A large bounce house.
A large bounce house was a major attraction of most of the toddlers attending the Splash ‘n’ Sparks.

Many families were playing softball, freezby, and soccer. There was also a sack race event. The entire Splash ‘n’ Sparks was full of loud music. It was a festive environment. We found a few of our friends and their families. We had short conversations with all of them.

Sack race
There was a sack race.

The weather was becoming a bit rough. The sky became cloudy quickly and we could feel the moist in the air. We thought that it would be a good idea to head toward our car. On our way back to the parking, we saw the large flag, which was hanging from the big ladder of a fire truck, blowing in the wind. It was an amazing scene. The picture we have provided in this post does not do a justice in expressing that beauty.

The flag blowing in the wind.
The flag was blowing in the wind. Definitely, the photo is not depicting the beauty we observed that day.

It took us around seven to eight minutes to reach our car. It started to rain heavily the moment we got into the car. It rained for around half an hour. We drove back home in the rain.

A “Fireworks” event after the sundown always justifies the “Sparks” part of the Splash ‘n’ Sparks. We were not there to see the fireworks. This is not because of the rainfall but because we have a toddler for whom routine is a crucial thing. There is a large indoor pool in the Student Recreation Center. People attending the Splash ‘n’ Sparks event could go there and swim. We didn’t because we enjoyed the outdoor activities more. An item that we expected but was not there in the Splash ‘n’ Sparks this year was the watermelon eating competition. It was exciting to see this  competition last year. In fact, I was planning to participate in this competition this year. Attendance to the watermelon eating contest was free last year. Who won’t like a few free slices of watermelon? 🙂

The Splash ‘n’ Sparks this year was pretty amazing. We enjoyed it a lot. Based on what information our memory is providing, the event last year was more crowded and cheerful. Thanks to all the organizers of the Splash ‘n’ Sparks events this year, last year, and any year before for their extra-ordinary efforts.

Settle in El Paso team


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