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My View: Notes From the Front Row (Opinion)

Local Musings

All About Fireworks!

Last week the Tahoe Douglas Visitors Authority Board of Directors voted to cancel the Fourth of July fireworks for the second year in a row. As expected, the decision was met with strong comments from both those who agreed with the decision and those who opposed it.

Carl Ribaudo

Fourth of July fireworks have been a tradition since the country was founded. For many, it’s become a matter of patriotism, and those visiting and living on the South Shore have enjoyed barbecues and parties for years.



Despite this history and tradition, I support the TDVA decision. Here are my reasons:

Though billed as the biggest fireworks display in the west, the fireworks have little impact on visitation. It may have been the case years ago, but much has changed in the past three decades. The South Shore brand is known throughout the country for various reasons, and fireworks have nothing to do with that. The advent of sophisticated technology marketing allows the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority to reach potential visitors from across the country with a message with a button push. Fireworks are not a big reason to visit. We witnessed this first-hand last year. Even though the cancellation of fireworks last year, South Shore visitation was up, suggesting that a firework show did not influence visitation on the year’s peak holiday.



There has always been an uneasy feeling about the fireworks’ environmental impact, including spent debris that falls into the lake. While the TDVA does everything it can to clean up, it’s always one lawsuit away from ending the program. Recall several years ago; a Nevada homeowner threatened legal action based on environmental impacts in the lake. At any time, someone could raise the issue, and the survival of fireworks would be in doubt.

According to the TDVA, the cost, all in, is about $260,000 every year. Think about that — over a quarter-million dollars for about 25 minutes of fireworks. Let me put it another way, over the next five years; the TDVA would be spending $1.3 million for a little over two hours of fireworks entertainment. Who in their right mind would spend that kind of money for two hours of fireworks entertainment?

It’s important to understand that the TDVA, which includes the casino hotels and other Nevada side lodging properties, funds the fireworks; those funds are specific purpose funds earmarked to attract overnight visitors.

For years, the thinking among some was you needed fireworks to attract visitors but last year proved differently. The fireworks are not funded by retail businesses, restaurants, or recreation activities. Neither the city of South Lake Tahoe nor El Dorado County provides funding. Now, if for example, the city of South Lake Tahoe wanted to fund fireworks not to attract visitors but to provide entertainment for residents and those already here, they should consider that option.

On the Fourth of July, visitors and residents will gather, play, have a barbecue, and have fun no matter what. They will celebrate as they always have, as they did last year. You do not need fireworks to be patriotic; you either are, or you are not.

The Big Picture

I find it amazing how pre-pandemic there was no way business could increase wages. Remember the old economic theory that if you increase wages then business will have to lay off people. That policy just does not seem to be viable these days. Maybe the truth is these businesses could have afforded higher wages all along.

Recommendation

As the pandemic begins to end. One of the welcome returns to normal is live music, be it small scale or concerts here on the South Shore. It is a welcome return for sure. Do yourself a favor and get out and see some local music. It will all come back to you.

It is a Wrap

Memorial Day is just about here, and summer will be upon us shortly. What to expect? Most of the reports I have seen suggest South Shore will have a very busy summer. With that said it will be a test to see if we can handle the anticipated crowds.

From trash to parking to traffic and congestion our track record is mixed. Hopefully, the agencies will be able to react quickly and adjust to the situation we are all anticipating. This is not a one season situation, it is what we can look forward to in the coming years and we will have to adjust and learn, or it will consume the destination.

Carl Ribaudo is a columnist, consultant, speaker, and writer who lives in South Lake Tahoe. you can reach him at carl@smgonline.net.


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