At the Lake: "Insider" coming to town
In preparation for Jeffrey Wigand’s week-long visit next month, the movie about the renowned tobacco expert will be shown at Lake Tahoe Community College theater this weekend.
You’ve heard of Wigand before. Portrayed by Russell Crowe in “The Insider” as a high-ranking official at a tobacco company who blew the whistle on the industry’s shadowy practices, Wigand will be in Tahoe to speak to students and adults about the dangers of tobacco.
During his visit Wigand will speak to elementary, middle and high schools students as well as hold a talk for adults. Lisa Huard, safe schools coordinator for Lake Tahoe Unified School District, said tobacco use remains prevalent amount youth.
“Tobacco is a gateway drug,” she said. “It’s also something our kids continue to easily get a hold of.”
Huard believes Wigand will speak about advertising tactics employed by tobacco companies to lure teenagers and children to smoke. Teen addiction could also be a topic, Huard said.
“He’s got knowledge. He is a scientist,” she said.
Al Browne, owner of Liquor Shack along Lake Tahoe Boulevard, applauds Wigand’s visit. Browne has discontinued supplying certain brands of cigarettes in a stance against what he believes are tobacco companies’ tactics to advertise to children with cartoon characters on labels, coloring patterns and putting promotions at the eye level of children.
Many children and teens use his store, Browne said, either buying goodies for their lunch boxes during the school year or buying ice cream in summer.
“If you’re warned about high-pressured sales before you go into a transaction you’re much more on guard when it’s presented to you and I think the same thing can happen here,” Browne said.
Wigand’s week-long visit from June 4-8 is being made possible by donations and grant money.
As community members gather today at South Tahoe Middle School to celebrate groundbreaking for a new nine-lane track and youth sports complex, they’ll recollect how such a huge undertaking became possible.
They’ll applaud the huge donations made by Big George Ventures and Park Cattle Company, the fortunate grants from El Dorado County and California, the support of Lake Tahoe Unified School District and the city and the many contributions of money and labor from townspeople.
But the joint efforts of many people wouldn’t have happened without the persistence of South Tahoe Middle School physical education instructor/coach Karin Holmes.
In 2003, Holmes hatched a dreamy renovation plan for the historical track once used for the 1968 Olympic Trials by organizing an executive committee known as Track Renovation 4 Community and Kids. Previous ventures to raise money to restore the once priceless track foundered, leaving the track community frustrated.
Holmes, a STHS grad who attended the ’68 Trials as a young child, accepted the role of fundraising coordinator in the eight-member committee that was headed by former South Shore resident Ken Griest. A lifelong community member, Holmes didn’t ever consider giving up, even though there were a number of barriers to overcome.
“When Ken Griest started collecting money he said we needed to keep track because we were going to give this money back if nothing happened,” Holmes said.
“But it was one of those things I wasn’t going to give up on, even if it was going to take 40 years.”
During a time when the school district was struggling to keep teachers employed and athletics afloat, Holmes persevered by raising money through 5K and 10K races, selling portions of the old track and seeking donations. In all the group has raised more than $50,000 for the track and will continue to fundraise with the annual running of the Legendary Run on June 23.
“In all honesty it should be the Karin Holmes’ track,” said Deb Treiber, a former STHS and STMS track coach. “Karin flies under the radar, but she’s a person of action. She kept grinding on and grinding on people. It takes more energy to get something going. There are a lot of people working on it now, God bless them, but the person who started the ball rolling was Karin.”
The community was slow to get behind the estimated $590,000 to renovate the track, but contributions from the Treibers, Norbergs, Gibbs and John Mason and a sizable one from the Optimist Club gave the idea some legs. They were the original believers.
“It seems it has taken a while, but good things will happen if you put your head down and keep going,” said Keith Norberg, who along with his wife Loreen made one of the initial donations. “It’s important we’re at this point. We should all feel proud as a community for the facility that we are getting.”
Holmes said the turning point came when Jim Tarwater took over as the district’s superintendent.
“When Jim came to town we had raised $30,000. He took us past the fun run mentality and allowed us to get some big donors,” Holmes said.
Holmes’ dream was embraced by a handful of others. They became the TR4CK committee. The most active members have been Brett Long, Penny Stewart, David Borges, Austin Angell, El Hug, Carol Haase-Hug, Dominique Westlake and Jim Pawling.
Neglect and time turned the U.S. Olympic Committee donation into an eyesore and a potential hazard. An uneven, slippery surface eventually prevented STMS and STHS from hosting meets. Geese began to move in and use the facility more than student athletes.
“We haven’t had any track meets here forever, because it’s dangerous,” Treiber said.
The former site of the tartan track at Echo Summit provided one of the more dramatic locations in track and field history. Nestled in the pine trees more than a mile high, the Echo Summit location enabled athletes preparing for the 1968 Olympic Games to simulate the high altitude of Mexico City.
The high-altitude training and subsequent Olympic Trials was the right formula as that American track and field team collected 12 gold medals and set six world records. Today, the team is still considered the best U.S. Olympic track and field team ever. Some of the stars from that team included Bob Beamon, John Carlos, Tommie Smith and Lee Evans.
“There was no reason it shouldn’t have been fixed, so many people have used it and it’s an awesome piece of history,” Holmes said.
As the new track and field facility has become more than a possibility, larger contributions have been made by the community. Those making donations of $500 ore more, excluding race entry fees, are Mark and Anjanette Hoefer, Soroptimist-Tahoe Sierra, Ed and Susan Cook, Gray Matter-Goretex, Chani and Jane Lau, Dennis and Kelly Sheehan, Nancy and Erick Shafer, Kiwanis of Lake Tahoe, South Tahoe Middle School ASB, South Tahoe High School API and Albertsons. Recent contributors are being recognized on the ltusd.org Web site.
To make a donation, phone (530) 541-2850, ext. 254 or mail donations to Community Youth Sports Complex, 1021 Al Tahoe Boulevard, South Lake Tahoe, Calif., 96150.
After excavation work is completed by late June, a 195-foot by 330-foot synthetic turf soccer field will be installed as will the nine-lane polyurethane track and fencing.
The track and field will include a pole vault pit ” an event that hasn’t been available to STHS athletes in past years. Landscaping, lighting a concession stand, rest rooms and bleachers will be added to the complex in time.