73rd Western Days event this weekend in South Lake Tahoe

Sara Jackson
Special to the Tribune

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Looking for a fun-filled weekend of food, games, gunslinger shootouts, and live music? Look no further than the Western Days event happening Saturday and Sunday, June 4-5, at the Lake Tahoe Historic Museum complex.

The 73rd Highway 50 Wagon Train takes visitors back in time to 1949 when the US50 Wagon Train traversed the highway.

When asked about the historical significance of the US50 Wagon Train, Carol Spreckelson, member of the Highway 50 Association, said, “In 1949, Bill Harrah, who owned Harvey’s Casino and the Ledbedders got together and decided to create an event that would bring people up to the lake. It was between World War II and the Korean War and it was kind of a quiet time. The Celio Ranch donated the double freight hitch. And it was a publicity stunt to bring tourists to Lake Tahoe.

“When they didn’t put on the event in 1950, the public was disappointed,” Spreckelson added. “So in 1951 the Highway 50 Wagon Train Association was formed and the wagons have been rolling down the highway ever since then, except in 2020.”

Spreckelson has been participating in the Wagon Train for about 30 years and is the co-event planner with Paula Peterson.

The event takes place over two days. On Saturday, June 4, there will be 15-20 vendors, along with a barbecue, beer and mead. There will be soft drinks available. A western facade will transport people back in time, along with gunslinger shootouts and carriage rides from the parking lot at the recreation center to the backside of the parking area at the museum complex. History favorites such as Calamity Jane and Kit Carson will be there. Also, Chautauquan David Woodruff will be portraying Mr. Reed, who was one of the survivors of the Donner Party, who actually made it out and went to Sacramento to get supplies. He then went back to help rescue his family.

The main event occurs on Sunday, June 5, when the US50 Wagon Train will leave its overnight spot on Roundhill to the Amacker Ranch in South Lake Tahoe.

“At noon we will stop for lunch at the museum complex in the parking lot, so we will be seen on Highway 50 as people drive by and they can stop to talk to us,” Spreckelson said. “We go to the Amacker Ranch and we spend the night there. Normally we would head up Echo Summit and stop at the Magnet school, but because of the powers that be, or the CHP, has decided not to escort us up the mountain. We have to talk to the supervisors of El Dorado county and they would have to say, “yes” to get that done. We’ve been able to do it most of the time in the last 73 years. We are hauling up to Tamarack Pines Road on Monday with vehicles, then we are wagon training down from there on Highway 50. From Tamarack Pines Road to Kyberz. Then from Kyberz to Fresh Pond.”

Spreckelson said the Pollock Pines community center has been supporting the event since 1989 and will have 45 booths and vendors set up for their arrival, along with a shootout show, live music, western poetry readings and barbecue.

To keep this event as historical as possible, there are rules and regulations for how to dress. People are supposed to dress in 1860’s garb, such as prairie dresses worn by women and buckskins for riders. Western dress is allowed as long as it’s not too loud.

In its 73 years the Wagon Train has seen its members and participants slowly diminish.

“Funding and more sponsorships are needed for wagons,” Spreckelson said. “That’s what we’re really lacking now. We go along Highway 50, that makes it difficult. We’re up early at 5 in the morning. Most of the time we have to be on the road by 9, according to the CHP rules that they’ve given us. We have to travel many miles per day. People get old and they pass away. And the wagons are no longer available.”

The 73rd Highway 50 Wagon Train runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. June 4 at the History Museum Complex located at 3058 Lake Tahoe Boulevard, South Lake Tahoe. The event is free.

The wagon train comes through South Lake Tahoe on Sunday, June 5. It will leave Round Hill at about 9 a.m. and arrive at the Amacker Ranch at about 3 p.m.

The 73rd Highway 50 Wagon Train takes visitors back in time to 1949 when the US50 Wagon Train traversed the highway.
Provided/Highway50 Association

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