Restoring South Tahoe fireworks a longshot


STATELINE, Nev. — In what amounts to a Hail Mary pass, a Gardnerville man is trying to raise $100,000 to restore the Fourth of July fireworks at Stateline.

Jonathan Ruppel said he has been in contact with Zambeli Fireworks West Coast Project Manager John Hagan to find out what it would take to bring the fireworks back to Lake Tahoe.

Ruppel, a student at the University of Nevada, Reno, grew up in Carson Valley and is the son of longtime resident Willi Ruppel.

On Wednesday, the Tahoe Douglas Visitors Authority canceled Lights on the Lake, saying having tens of thousands of visitors could pose a risk of spreading the coronavirus.

“It’s a very large undertaking from an operational and risk standpoint,” Visitors Authority President and CEO Carol Chaplin pointed out on Friday.

Ruppel has established a link on Gofundme at in an effort to raise the money to bring the show to Tahoe.He agreed he was facing a daunting task to try and get the fireworks, but that he wanted to try.

“I like a good challenge,” he said. “I want to show people that there are other options out there. Even though it’s hard, at least it will give people options.”

He said that he was told by Hagan that the cost of having the fireworks launched from the Lake was more than twice that of a land-based show.

“I’m looking into other options like a land-based display due to the hurdles,” he said. “I’m trying to do something everyone can enjoy.”

Ruppel shared emails with Hagan that provide enough of a glimmer of hope that he’s moving forward with the effort. But money isn’t the only hurdle.

Zambeli has the permits, but it would require all the involved agencies to sign off on the show. That includes getting approval from the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

On Wednesday, Ruppel said that he has until June 1 to figure out all the parts.

“It is my hope that people in the Valley, who see the show as a tradition will want to help still make it happen and come together to help fund it,” Ruppel said. “Putting on a show isn’t cheap on the water, with the average show usually costing from $100,000 to $200,000.”

He said he was spurred to seek something to help restore normalcy.

“Firework shows at Tahoe are a breathtaking experience that cannot be replicated anywhere else in the world,” he said. “I’ve been going to the shows ever since I can remember as a kid and am fighting for our tradition as Americans to celebrate our independence.”

Ruppel said that if the effort doesn’t succeed, he will refund donors money.

July 4 falls on a Sunday this year, which means at least a three-day weekend, since many businesses and agencies will take the Monday off for the holiday.

“During an already busy weekend that has the potential for environmental impacts in the Basin in the way of increased trash at our beaches, fire danger and strain on our various agency resources, we need to be good stewards of the lake,” Chapin said. “We join our other Lake Tahoe basin partners in maintaining this focus by pausing the fireworks show one more time.”

Chaplin said that because of the virus there were concerns for the safety of visitors.

“Although restrictions have been lifted, we feel that this past year of uncertainty has taught us that caution and preparedness is paramount to keeping our residents and visitors safe. We are extremely sensitive to what the destination needs and to creating a quality experience for both visitors and residents.”

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