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Trickle effect that canceled events have on local economy

Kayla Anderson
Tahoe Daily Tribune

When summertime comes around, there are a few premier events that not only drive tourism and showcase Lake Tahoe, but some of the money generated from them trickles down towards local nonprofits.

Here’s a look at a few world-class summer happenings that have been altogether canceled, postponed, or moved online due to the COVID-19 pandemic and how that affects the local charities they serve.

Rock Tahoe Half Marathon to be held virtually May 23-June 20

Registration for the planned June 20 Hard Rock Half Marathon has been on hold due to COVID-19, but after discussions with local authorities and to stay in compliance with federal health guidelines, the Rock Tahoe will still go on as a virtual race.

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The 13.1-mile course that starts at Spooner Summit and hugs Tahoe’s East Shore ending at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino is now called the 2020 Socially Distanced Rock Tahoe Half Marathon. It will be held May 23-June 20 where people can run a 13.1-mile course anywhere and upload their results onto Rock Tahoe’s official results page. In return, participants will get their finisher’s medal, bib, and T-shirt mailed to them.

However, Rock Tahoe race organizer Jason Collin says that the event being held virtually this year will have a huge impact on its partners like Athletes United, a nonprofit that helps manage the race and collects donations that then go back into the South Lake Tahoe community to promote youth sports.

The Rock Tahoe Half Marathon started in 2015 and averages around 2,000 runners.

Some of the groups that volunteer and may receive support back from the race include cheerleading squads, cross country, soccer and key clubs. Athletes United focuses on promoting youth endurance sports, but that can also include filtering money back to groups like the National Honor Society.

Last year Rock Tahoe generated $10,000, and Collin expects that they will generate around 20-30% of what they usually give due to it being moved online. Luckily many of their supporters are committed to helping out, giving money and running in its current iteration despite COVID-19; 1,500 runners already signed up by March.

“I hope that everyone who signed up still wants to do it,” Collin says.

To show their appreciation, runners who continue to do the Rock Tahoe this year will get a huge credit towards next year’s race (in 2021 it will only cost $37 to participate; normally it’s $129).

Collin says that the people who’ve already signed up have been doing it for years, many coming from the Sacramento/Bay Area drive market.

“Eighty percent of runners come from more than 75 miles away,” he said about past and current participants.

“We love locals and want as many as we can get, but the drive market is good for the economy as it puts more heads in beds, people tend to bring their families, patronize local businesses, and make a weekend out of it,” Collin said. “It’s more than just the race. Rock Tahoe is purposely held on a Saturday for that reason — people tend to drive up and stay at least two nights. Millions of dollars are spent in the community that weekend.”

While Tahoe will be missing out on a whole load of money this year, loyal Rock Tahoe runners will still be participating together even though they’re apart and partners will still be cheering them on virtually.

For more information about the 2020 Socially Distanced Rock Tahoe Half Marathon, visit the website.

Tahoe Heritage Foundation Gatsby/Afternoon Tea Festival canceled

The Tahoe Heritage Foundation that manages the Tallac Historic Site uses a combination of summer programs, tours and proceeds from its gift shop to help maintain the sprawling 5-acre lakefront property and Pope-Baldwin Estates, but it also hosts a couple of major events that help raise money for the site’s restoration and upkeep.

Both the Sunset Soiree and the beloved longstanding 2-day Gatsby Afternoon Tea Festival have been canceled for 2020, and that is a huge hit on its operating budget.

The Sunset Soiree that was supposed to be held in July brought in around $3,000 last year. This summer organizers planned on doubling their headcount, selling 160 tickets at $55 each.

“It doesn’t seem like much but it’s a lot to generate in a 2-to-3-hour time span,” says Tahoe Heritage Foundation Director of Operations Jude Markward.

The foundation’s other major event, the 2-day Gatsby Afternoon Tea Festival is even more heartbreaking to cancel as it’s an event that’s been going on for 36 years and was originally started by the foundation’s official nonprofit partner, the U.S. Forest Service.

When the foundation took it over from the Forest Service, it also took on more expense but has doubled its attendee base bringing in around $8,000-$9,000 throughout the two days that is then split with Valhalla.

“It’s a major fundraiser for us,” Markward said.

However, since the foundation works directly with the Forest Service, it must support what it decides. When it put out the directive to close all recreation sites at least through May 15, Markward didn’t see how moving forward with these premier Tahoe events this summer was possible.

“We made the call to cancel all events about a month ago. With so many moving parts and all of the unknown, we just decided that was the best thing to do,” she said.

Cancelling the events (and tours, programs, and gift shop) has been a huge hit though as the Tahoe Heritage Foundation relies on that money to support their RV volunteers who travel from all over the United States to come help manage and maintain the site during the summer months.

“The programs and tours also all contribute to the fundraising effort to keep the Tallac Historic Site alive,” Markward said. “As the Forest Service’s budget goes down, our expenses go up to look after the site. A lot of our expenses go towards preservation and repair work. The public still walks through, we have to maintain it no matter what. We’ve been there for 24 years. Without the tourism programs, it’s going to hurt us for next year.”

The Tahoe Heritage Foundation does have a plan to get through it, though.

“We’re going to do a gradual opening and can possibly do a modified outdoor gift shop,” Markward said. “We’re hoping to be open by July, but we normally close in September, so we have a very small window due to the weather. It’s going to be a tough year; I don’t know if we’re going to survive. Visitors and tourists love it here so it’s imperative that they help keep this going as we are severely strapped for cash.”

To help keep the Tallac Historic Site alive, donate via its website.

American Century Championship still up in the air

Arguably considered one of the biggest events that draws attention to Lake Tahoe every summer is the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament at Edgewood Tahoe. As of May 20, NBC Sports was still deliberating on whether it can still happen on July 7-12 of this year as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve.

Not only have loyal residents/golf aficionados been helping out at the event for decades, the golf tournament also monetary support for local nonprofits. In 2019, recipients from 38 nonprofits received more than $100,000 in grants that ranged from $1,000-$10,000.

The money is usually generated from the amateur golfers/celebrities who win the prize pot and donate it back to charity.

“Players who maintain amateur status don’t accept payment, so it’s always nice when you have someone like Tony Romo, who’s an amateur, win the tournament and then give it all back to charity,” said Phil Weidinger of Weidinger Public Relations.

“If you have someone win $125,000 and donate it all back to charity then that makes a big impact,” he said.

If the golf tournament can’t happen this year at its originally intended dates, Weidinger is afraid that the event will just get canceled since many of the players are professional athletes in other sports who will likely have other obligations depending on when things start opening up again.

“Who knows when the NFL season is going to start, there’s so much uncertainty around that,” Weidinger said.

Sports that are slowly starting to come back (like UFC, NASCAR, and golf) are a good sign, but there is still so much uncertainty.

“The number one thing is to keep people healthy and safe, and once they figure that out then a whole lot of other things will come into play,” Weidinger said.

NBC Sports is expected to release their decision about the celebrity golf tournament after Memorial Day Weekend. For more information, visit the ACC website.


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