Tahoe events have a mixed history
Special events on the South Shore have come and gone over the years, leaving the ones with a loyal following, hefty volunteer base and specific niche to entertain visitors and residents.
For its March 7 meeting, the city council may entertain the idea of providing funding for the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority to put on special events. And Executive Director Patrick Kaler says he plans to soon hire a special events coordinator, despite the city’s financial support for LTVA waning over the past couple years.
Many South Lake Tahoe residents scream for more special events – but they take work, accountability and support.
Pat Ronan, who runs the Lakeshore Lodge, remembers the early days of forming a Special Events Coalition with Councilman Mike Weber and marketer Denise Sloan. Weber was instrumental in getting the Renaissance Faire to town when he ran the Camp Richardson Resort, and Sloan had the entertainment contacts as Action editor for the Tahoe Daily Tribune.
The idea was to provide marketing support, not cash.
“It was a good way to network. But even back then (12 years ago), it was not easy to find a venue,” Ronan said.
Ronan, an LTVA board member, lamented over bureaucratic regulations. An example? The concept of a symphony playing music on a barge was shot down because of the impact on the vegetation at the shoreline.
These days, he points to the efforts of the Tallac Association trying to extend the number of weekends to stage the Renaissance Faire as one example where parking and auxiliary issues may throw it off track.
“The town is in desperate need for special events – but events planned other than (during) summer,” he said.
Beyond the far-reaching television coverage, the American Century Championship golf tournament brings hundreds of celebrities and visitors to Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course every summer. Organizers smartly moved the weekend from the July 4 to create more South Shore traffic.
Even if an organizer was eager and willing, there was little accountability and business proposals in the early days of event planning. And the objective of bringing out-of-towners to the area for the tax revenue was sometimes lost.
For instance, the Shakespeare Festival staged in Ashland, Ore., every summer, impacts the economy of the Rogue River Valley to the tune of $130 million annually. South Lake Tahoe has been unable to track the impact of hosting special events to the area, but it’s something Councilman John Upton wants to do.
“If what we’re trying to do is grow tourism then there has to be a business plan of how it will work,” Upton said.
He commends Les Wright, who has organized the Lake Tahoe Marathon for about a decade, for going to expositions to spur interest in his marathon.
“You can do anything up here because people want to come to Tahoe,” Wright said. “You just have to give them a reason.”
He recommends other organizers or wannabes be realistic about the time and money it takes.
“You’ve got to dedicate your life to it,” he said.
Either that or build a huge core group of volunteers, others say.
Missy Springer, who works at Camp Richardson, said she’s noticed the nonprofits seem to make their events successful because they bring volunteers. Like Ronan, she’d like to see more California venues like amphitheaters – something the city has its eye on at Campground by the Lake and at the “Y.”
“Part of the problem (of not having more) is a lot of special events don’t make a lot of money,” she said.
People are still the biggest resource, according to Rich Hodge, who ran the special events coalition until it folded in 2004.
The coalition disbanded, but that hasn’t quelled the interest. Ascent, the South Shore gay ski week, is set for its second year next week. Tahoe Winter Expo just finished up another successful event last November through the efforts of Core 24 Charities. Plus, the attendance at the Lake Tahoe Adventure Film Festival has at least doubled. And the Northern Nevada Region of the American Cancer Society is set to bring a Relay for Life at Kahle Community Park in July.
A sampling of South Shore special events
— American Century Championship (still going)
— Labor Day Lake Tahoe (gone)
— America’s Most Beautiful Ride (still going & expanding)
— Lake Tahoe Marathon (still going & expanding)
— Great Gatsby Festival (once in jeopardy)
— Renaissance Faire (once in jeopardy)
— John Wynn Golf Tournament (still going)
— Boys & Girls Club Tournament (still going)
— Death Ride (still going)
— Cool September Days (still going)
— Ascent, the Winter Party (second year next week)
— ACS Relay for Life (inaugural event in July)
— Gunbarrel 25, now 50 (still going)
— Wagon Train (still going)
— Dragon Boat Races (one year & gone)
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