News Release: HAMILTON, Bermuda – Minister of Tourism, Culture, and Sport Owen K. Darrell, said: “The passing of Leon ‘Sparky’ Place is a profound loss for Bermuda’s cultural landscape. His dedication to preserving and innovating the Gombey tradition has left an indelible mark on our heritage. I have had the opportunity to speak with members of the Places Gombey family, who shared fond memories of Sparky and his passion for our culture. Sparky’s commitment to his craft, coupled with his faith and creative vision, has inspired countless individuals and enriched our Bermudian culture.”

Born on October 12, 1946, to Reginald and Mabel Place, Leon ‘Sparky’ Place was not only a master of the Gombey arts but also a mentor, innovator, and custodian of tradition. His Gombey journey began at the tender age of ten when he joined his family’s troupe, Places Gombey, under the guidance of his father ‘Scranni’ Place. Over the span of more than six decades, Sparky’s dedication to the art form was unparalleled, and his contributions were manifold.

From his early days as a performer to his role as captain of Places Gombey, Sparky exemplified discipline, creativity, and passion. He was known for his unique blend of tradition and innovation, infusing prayer into his performances and introducing original steps and regalia designs that enhanced the dynamism of Gombey dancing. Notably, he was credited with replacing fringing with wool in the regalia.

Throughout his illustrious career, Sparky’s influence extended beyond Bermuda, with international appearances in Colombia, Connecticut, Boston, and Jamaica, representing the island and showcasing his beloved Gombey tradition.

Despite his achievements, Sparky remained humble and committed to passing on his knowledge to future generations. He continued to dance with Places Gombey on special occasions, ensuring that the legacy of Gombey would endure for years to come. He was honoured at the Bermuda Gombey Festival in 2018 by the Department of Culture and earned a King’s Certificate in the 2023 honours.

The Government of Bermuda recognizes Leon ‘Sparky’ Place as a cultural icon whose contributions have shaped Bermuda’s identity and inspired admiration both locally and internationally. His spirit will live on through the rhythmic beats and vibrant colors of Gombey, a testament to his enduring legacy.

A tribute Gombey march took place last night (Mar 4) which started at Purvis Primary at 6:30pm – all are welcome.