GUEST COLUMN: Tahoe needs more than events |

GUEST COLUMN: Tahoe needs more than events

Garry Bowen
Special to the Tribune

The title of Carl Ribaudo’s Memorial Day weekend column, “Amgen Was Worth It,” was eerily reminiscent in tone of “It Was Great While It Lasted,” the Mark Curtis book published posthumously by Black Rock Press – its’ subtitle was “Northern Nevada’s Entertainment Heyday,” where the subject matter diverges a bit, but not much.

Whereas Mark Curtis’ book was a lament about the entertainment shift that left nothing but reviews, instead of actual entertainment stars, Carl tries to give us all a shot in the arm, mentioning those who might have “dissed” the event (its’ cost, late spring weather, etc.), bolstering the idea that at least we as a community came together to get-r’-done.

As we are in fact a gambling community, it would be a simple premise to say that we rolled the dice (given our sometimes erratic May weather) and that we didn’t make our number – therefore “crapped out.” But Carl knows better.

Carl offers a palliative by offering a long-ago conversation about a community’s Olympic spirit, mentioning 37,000 results on inquiring of a googled South Lake Tahoe Amgen, as significant proof of interest in that event.

Another eerily coincidental number, 35,000, was what Amgen originally estimated was to come along to view Tahoe’s two stages – whether both or not was never made clear — but it must be apparent by now that nowhere near that number showed up, at least on South Shore. Between the Echo detour and the weather, folks may have simply stayed where they were closer to a Tour of California stage, or could get there without the time and hassle.

Early rumors (which turned out to be true) that Santa Rosa had secured next year’s opening stage, were curious in and of themselves, making the whole affair seemingly a harbinger of what’s not to come. As Carl says, we “showed up” to get it done, but events didn’t bear out the success needed.

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Events are just that – events. They will not suffice as a marketing program for Lake Tahoe, nor will they offer anything other than a tighter logistical circuit with individual players and/or groups. Those who have produced events like America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride and the Lake Tahoe Marathon know very well the logistics of dealing behind-the-scenes with the issues Carl brings up – essentially dealing with a relatively small group traveling the entire distance, even as the entire length has to be kept in mind from the outset and throughout the event. As do two highway patrols, two transportation departments, five county sheriffs and one police department – they always cooperate in the best way possible.

As someone who also has Olympic experience with Whistler along with direct experience with South Shore’s entertainment heyday, I can now say Tahoe has a dire need to create a world-class marketing campaign, so we don’t have to rely on the vagaries of individual promoters to fulfill our economic needs. It is too much pressure on them and us to perform, even while our visitors’ orientation becomes desperate to accept things that come their way.

I actually agree with Carl, though, as the community always steps up. We have the capacity to serve others very well, as we have done for decades.

In 1970, for example, the Sahara Tahoe (now, the Horizon) booked Elvis Presley. He sold out their room in about six hours, before the digital age where shows can sell out stadiums in minutes.

Carl’s point about the community coming together is, for me, more about the town’s confidence in itself. When the South Shore had the confidence to book someone the stature of Elvis, the visitors came anyway, knowing full well that they couldn’t get in. It was that the town had enough confidence to spend money to make money and therefore was the place to be.

Tahoe needs to be the event in people’s lives again, as current efforts are suggesting. Everything is now so tentative, we seem not to be sure of whatever comes our way, even when it does.

– Garry Bowen has a 50-year connection to the South Shore. He can be reached at