By Angela Crawford
Special to the Sparks Tribune
The Sparks Museum and Cultural Center have teamed up with the Department of Motor Vehicles in order to give the Last Chance Joe statue the funds he needs to be the vibrant 36-foot prospector he once was. Joe stood strong for over 50 years, but with the passing of time, has fallen into disrepair and is in need of some renovations.
“Joe is an iconic symbol that represents the nostalgia and heritage of the area, everyone knows he represents Sparks and the Nugget so it is important to keep that strong visual alive,” said Tandy Gach, Sparks Museum Manager.
The statue was originally located in front of the Nugget in downtown Sparks where he stood looking out over the city and grinning his one-toothed smile for 56 years. In 2014, the Nugget decided that Joe did not fit into their remodeling plans and that he was to be removed. The City of Sparks reached out to the Sparks Museum Board of Trustees where it was decided that Joe’s new home would be in front of the museum. An anonymous donor also offered to pay the $36,000 moving fee.
Unfortunately, after Joe was moved to the museum, the donor only paid $6,000 and then skipped town, leaving the remaining cost unpaid. The museum was then forced to use the planned restoration budget to instead pay for the remaining moving fee.
With the restoration fund depleted, Joe has been left with just a protective coating, allowing him to survive the upcoming winter months. “He needs quite a bit of work still, everything from his internal structure to his paint job needs to be restored,” says Gach.
Starting on Dec. 18 the Nevadan public will be able to purchase Last Chance Joe license plates. The plate will cost $62, with $20 of that going straight to the Sparks Museum restoration fund.
Although the Sparks Museum and surrounding community have already dedicated a lot of time and effort into restoring Joe, he still has about $25,000 worth of repairs left. They are hopeful that this new fundraising tactic will allow them to restore the prospector to his former glory.
“We are hoping to build up an account for Last Chance Joe, we want to be able to do repairs on him for future years,” said Gach. “We really just want him to live forever”
The city is also hoping the old prospector gets another chance.
“Last Chance Joe has been a part of the community for a long time and I think it is important to carry him into the new era with us,” explains Sparks Councilman Kristopher Dahir. “Constituents have told me how excited they are about the renovation to Joe and we have been in talks with the museum for years trying to keep him a part of our history. Having history remain intact is crucial to the community,” adds Dahir.
More information about the upcoming license plate sale can be found at http://www.dmvnv.com/platesmain.htm Donations can also be made here https://www.razoo.com/story/Last-Chance-Joe