Holiday parties are all the rage |

Holiday parties are all the rage

Dan Thrift/Tahoe TribuneFrom left, Michael Adamson, Bob Burns, Jeanie Engle-Burns and Pam Adamson put the finishing touches on the 24-foot Valhalla Christmas tree in preparation for the sold-out Valhalla Gala on Saturday night.

The Grinch may have stolen corporate confidence this year and trust in public safety in 2001, but the holiday party has survived — with or without the beluga caviar.

The ritual of the holiday party has made a comeback this year, coming off the worst year for the annual tradition. Many American companies canceled their festivities because the mood didn’t feel right after Sept. 11 and the recession was in full swing.

Lake Tahoe is ready to join the revelry.

Horizon Casino Resort reports 20 percent more companies have booked holiday parties at their casino compared to last year.

The traditional parties in Tahoe vary as much as the companies and organizations that host them.

The city of South Lake Tahoe has placed its employee party on ice, hosting an alcohol-free, potluck event for its 300 staffers at the ice arena Sunday.

The facility marks its first Christmas this year with some parties booked, including Tahoe Family Physicians on Dec. 16.

Ice Arena Manager Gary Moore expects the venue to catch on by next year, and dates are still available this season. Rink parties appeal to employees with families who seek out a place that will entertain the younger set, Moore said.

From the industry that invented playtime, Harrah’s Lake Tahoe plans to throw an all-day party Dec. 20 for its nearly 4,000 employees at its former Harveys Garden Buffet site.

From 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., staff may eat, listen to music, win prizes, mingle with Santa and play arcade games.

It’s the first holiday employee party since Harveys merged with Harrah’s and Bill’s Casino in July 2001. Last year, the casino company gave turkeys to its employees.

“Now that the properties are more melded, people can get to know each other,” Harrah’s spokesman John Packer said. “It’s the first year we’ve done this kind of party.”

He anticipates many who work that day will take part on their breaks.

On the evening of Dec. 14, Barton Memorial Hospital will bring back its holiday party, with dinner and dancing at the Horizon.

“The party was brought back after being gone for a couple of years because the employees wanted a party,” Barton spokeswoman Linda Thompson said. “And the hospital wanted to do something.”

The hospital will share the expense with the employees, who will pick up the $20 dinner tab.

The party has been billed more as a team-building event than an employee appreciation party, Thompson said, “so they can get to know each other outside the work environment.”

Staffers may see the more-or-less talented side of their cohorts, too.

The hospital, which will foot the entertainment bill, will offer karaoke to those brave enough to sing.

Last year, the hospital replaced the big December shindig with a summer beach party. It found the response was dictated by the level of monetary commitment from the employees.

“We learned that something free is not always the best,” Thompson said.

Like the Horizon, Heavenly Ski Resort plans to leave the holiday gatherings up to department heads for the personal touch.

Some companies like Lakeside Inn and Casino have expanded holiday parties by inviting guests as well as their employees.

Sterling Village Assisted Living will bring out a buffet and Santa to music for its 24 residents and staffers on Dec. 21.

Embassy Suites employees plan to cut a rug and enjoy red-carpet hospitality at their dinner and dance on Dec. 15.

“Everything is timing. We had the room. The rest of the time we’ve been booked (with other parties),” General Manager Simeon Miranda said.

Miranda said the Hilton-managed hotel usually holds a holiday party for its employees, but it’s not a given.

“If we were doing bad, we would not be having a party. 2002 has been a good year,” he said. “We’re very fortunate we can have one this year.”

The manager said he’s heard other properties haven’t done as well — in and out of the Hilton name.

— Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at

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