Opinion: What’s happened to Red, White and Tahoe Blue?
June 9, 2015
It seems like only yesterday that Red, White and Tahoe Blue was formed to celebrate our great nation's birthday.
The idea was the brainchild of local Realtor Tom Bruno, who was inspired by the Fireworks and Boston Pops music celebration on July 4th and who shared his idea for a comparable event at the then-Tuesday Bonanza Community meeting.
Several of us present offered to participate in creating a comparable event for us in Incline Village/Crystal Bay. Tom was joined by Greg McKay, Allen Ferris, Ed Gurowitz, Tom Masterson, Bill Horn and myself, and the organizing board came into existence.
The goal of RWTB was threefold: to create a community event that would honor veterans, to offer an opportunity for nonprofit organizations to raise funding, and to provide financial stimulus for local merchants.
Since there were already two big annual events scheduled for July 4, the Lions Pancake Breakfast and the Optimists Picnic, and after Rotary joined in with its famously successful duck race, the immediate task was to find a reasonable fireworks expert to provide the culminating display.
In its infancy, as plans evolved, an event began to take shape — for July 2, a chalk drawing event for children sponsored by Potlatch and Incline Outfitters at Raley's Center was added; a wine tasting for adults at Aspen Grove was introduced; and a dinner at Thunderbird Lodge was held.
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For July 3, a parade was held following the fire district's pancake breakfast. Then, there was a luncheon for the veterans and their family members at Aspen Grove.
While the veterans enjoyed their luncheon, there was a flags exhibit for the public to enjoy, a doggie dress up parade/contest and food and games for the community to share on the Village Green.
Then there was a tribute to veterans held on the Village Green, where each branch was introduced as the members took their seats on the stage.
There, the National Anthem launched a presentation for the benefit of the Veterans, followed by a USO style performance for the enjoyment of all.
Later, there would be an ice cream social sponsored by Susie Scoops, and to end the day there was the flag retirement ceremony sponsored by our local Boy Scouts Troop.
Funding for the fireworks was provided by donations from the community, and any profits were dispersed to the participating nonprofits at the time, and community feedback was that RWTB had been a rousing success that brought us all together.
In the years that followed the event grew. More nonprofit organizations joined in the Community Fair at Village Green, creating events for families and disseminating information about their services, and veterans' activities expanded to include flyovers, demonstrations of air rescue on the beach, parachutists, helicopter landings on the Green and educational military exhibits around the Green.
Today, with the current board, we are looking at a very different RWTB. While some original activities like the chalk drawing and ice cream eating contest remain intact, the majority of the other activities have changed.
The focus on a Community Fair has been abandoned in favor of a Day on Village Green Music Festival event, where admission will be $60 per person. The nonprofit participation component has been obliterated, apparently in favor of a money-making music festival.
The Veterans' Tribute event, which has historically been held on the Village Green, has now been relegated to a much more limited ceremony on the beach, where participation by the community-at-large will be limited by beach access regulations.
Food will be available from food trucks on the Village Green. The Wine and Cheese event cost has now also been raised to $50 per person in advance or $60 per person at the door, with the proceeds going to benefit RWTB.
The Reno Philharmonic Concert is priced at $60 per person in advance or $75 per person at the door.
Funding for the fireworks is being raised by community contributions under a 501(C)(3)tax exempt number.
What's happened to RWTB? How is promoting community spirit being accomplished? Where is the dedication to the community to provide community events that are family oriented, educational and memorable?
Where is the dedication to the military and the sacrifices they've made for our country and us? What charitable causes are being supported? How are the local merchants going to benefit?
What can our children learn from this 3-day extravaganza? Is raising money for fireworks the only goal left of RWTB as it was conceived?
During a time when patriotism is "unfashionable", what are we doing to instill our youth with a love and pride of community and country?
Perhaps it's time to step back and re-evaluate what the Fourth of July really means and what we want to celebrate.
Otherwise, what will tomorrow bring?
Bea Epstein is an Incline Village resident and a former RWTB board member.
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