Let’s keep South Tahoe fireworks and fire marketers (Opinion)

Duane Wallace and Tom Davis
Guest column

We were both amused by the column written by local marketing guru Carl Ribaudo. He agreed with the Tahoe Douglas Visitors Authority and Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, deciding to stop having the Fourth of July fireworks.

The flawed reasoning was what brought the laughter but it also brought a sense of foreboding that yet another major blunder by an insulated, self-important, elitist groupthink entity had taken place.

The flaw in the reasoning was that Tahoe has arrived at a point that we no longer need our greatest draw. They just don’t understand what the fireworks mean to our longtime locals and visitors.

People who were here as kids come here every year because they want their children and grandchildren to have the same experience they did. It has deepened their love for the Tahoe brand just like the nightly fireworks at Disneyland has done. In addition, as we have come out from under the shadow of the pandemic it has become a patriotic sign that once again our nation has conquered an enemy together. In fact, to not have the event would be to admit defeat, not a sign that we have reached the pinnacle of fame as a destination and no longer need to ask people to come here.

Another flaw was that the year 2020 was an anomaly. People flocked here to get out of the Bay Area where living conditions had deteriorated due to COVID, and similar short-sighted policy maker’s decisions and because the federal government sent them checks that made a Tahoe trip possible. The kids weren’t in school and they could work by Skype, Zoom etc… from anywhere. Why not Tahoe? So, based on a one-year extremely unusual anomaly our highly paid marketers made long range extrapolations that were anything but accurate.

The other fatal flaw is that if indeed tourists will now come here in droves in perpetuity then let’s really save some money and disband the TDVA and LTVA and return all the millions of tax dollars they spend and use to pay their large salaries. And let’s most certainly not hire any more unnecessary marketing consultants.

Let’s take their reasoning further and test their theory that marketing has succeeded to the point that our best event isn’t necessary. Let’s do away with the American Century Championship, SnowGlobe and the outdoor concert series. Let’s not build the convention center because it will bring more people here and according to these brilliant marketers we just don’t need them. Maybe it’s the marketers themselves that we just don’t need.

The final flaw is that there is a concerted effort to lessen or eliminate the drive-up market that has been the bread and butter of the small businesses here. The “fly into Reno market” like Aspen and Vail brings a “higher class” of customers that benefits the larger properties that ironically control the LTVA and TDVA.

Between the two of us we have over 100 years of living and working as marketing executives and business owners in Tahoe. What could we possibly know in comparison to the people that work for the large properties that either go out of business as Lakeside Inn and Casino did (probably had too many customers), or constantly change owners and GMs every few years?

In conclusion, stopping marketing in order to save money is like stopping your watch in order to save time. You don’t shoot the dog that pulls your sled and you don’t drink the water that primes the pump. In the words of the great Texas coach Darrell Royal, “ya gotta dance with the one that brung ya.”

It’s time to keep the fireworks and fire the marketers.


Tom H. Davis is a former four-time Mayor of South Lake Tahoe.

Duane Wallace is the South Tahoe Chamber director and past president

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