Sternwheeler race schedule may be changed

The annual Labor Day weekend sternwheeler race between the Tahoe Queen and the M.S. Dixie II might be canceled or scheduled earlier in the summer so it can serve as a better draw for tourists, an official said.

The board of the Tahoe-Douglas Visitors Authority will meet today at Stateline to discuss the race - promoted as the only boat race of its kind West of the Mississippi River.

Last year's race was well publicized by the Tahoe-Douglas Visitors Authority and cost about $40,000 to produce, but it ended up attracting more residents than tourists.

The event is difficult to watch from shore, and most of the tickets to ride on the sternwheelers during the race are sold to residents, said Sharon Kelly, executive director of the Tahoe-Douglas Visitors Authority.

"It's costly and not an event that draws people to South Shore," Kelly said. "It's more of a local, community event."

Kelly said she's not sure what the board will decide, but she said the value of the race lies in the national media exposure it can generate for Tahoe.

"It really didn't move the needle, but it gets a tremendous amount of (publicity)," Kelly said. "The publicity we get from it would be better served at the beginning of the season than at the end of the season."

In the 1980s, the sternwheeler race happened as part of Memorial Day weekend. But weather was a challenge that early in the season with sleet or snow always a possibility, said John Packer, director of entertainment for Harrah's Lake Tahoe and Harveys Lake Tahoe and vice chairman of the board of the Tahoe-Douglas Visitors Authority.

"We're still talking about an early-summer event," said Carol Chaplin, spokeswoman for Aramark Lake Tahoe, which owns both sternwheelers. "We think that has some merit. We're just trying to find the best weekend. It maybe an opportunity to change it and improve it and organize more lake activities around the boat race."

The race has been conducted on Saturday of Labor Day weekend for the last six years. A fireworks display is Sunday. If the board decides to cancel or reschedule the event, it will look to replace it with something that involves more people.

"The real key to Labor Day is the fireworks display," Kelly said. "But we would look to something that will have a draw for locals and visitors alike - something the whole family can participate in."

Packer said the Outdoor Concert Series, organized by Harrah's and Harveys each summer, may decide to book its last concert of the season the Friday before Labor Day.

Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment