By Lee Denmark | SierraSun.com

By Lee Denmark

Tahoe World Publisher

When the SnowFest Winter Carnival for 2003 was cancelled last August, local residents may have thought they had attended their last Polar Bear Swim at Gar Wood’s and witnessed their final Dog Pull outside the Naughty Dawg. But to coin a phrase from ESPN’s college football analyst Lee Corso, “Not so fast, my friend.”

A group of determined local merchants began organizing in November, with the common goal of salvaging this annual celebration that had been entertaining residents and visitors alike for more than two decades. The movement, which this committee of volunteers readily admits is grassroots in nature, has been gaining momentum ever since.

Though the name SnowFest has been officially laid to rest, the future holds much promise for the North Shore Snow Festival, which is what it will be called this time around. At last count, 28 sponsors have stepped up to the plate with financial and/or other generous contributions in order to ensure the event’s survival.

“These people didn’t want to see SnowFest die because it’s a good community event,” explained Ruth Schnabel, contact person for the committee. “It brings the community together and attracts some out-of-town visitors.”

The 2003 North Tahoe Snow Festival will take place from Feb. 28 through March 9.

The group held its second planning session on Jan. 8 at Gar Wood’s, with the clear intentions to not only conduct another successful chapter in this sequence of events but to return it to the structure that SnowFest visionaries originally had in mind.

Schnabel, who was a driving force behind SnowFest’s creation in 1981, distributed a policy statement that was adopted during the festival’s early years, dated Nov. 1983.

Among its chief assertions was the viewpoint that “activities and events should be oriented toward providing entertainment for all segments of the community.”

Citizen involvement was also heavily emphasized. “All segments of the community should be encouraged to participate in the development and implementation of SnowFest activities,” the document revealed.

As they were developing these guidelines, the ’83 committee seemed to have some clear-cut ideas about sponsorships as well. “A sponsor should not be allowed to contribute to such a large extent that SnowFest loses its community-based support or that the success of SnowFest would be endangered by the withdrawal of that sponsor.”

Close followers of SnowFest’s recent history will recall that this early fear eventually became a chief factor behind its demise.

The Tahoe World reported in August that one of the main reasons for the cancellation of the annual winter carnival was the lack of sponsorship, according to Bill Jensen, event coordinator. Ford Motor Co., a major sponsor in previous years, pulled out in 2001, and Budweiser also cut back its role.

SnowFest had been financially burdened and in debt since the 2000 festival. That’s when cable networks such as ESPN, Fox and PAX televised some events.

“The television put SnowFest on shaky ground financially,” Jensen had reported to the Tahoe World.

This time, there is no major player that will have a name linked synonymously to Snow Festival. Local merchants have contributed $500 each in order to sponsor events at their individual places of business.

Charitable groups, however, still get a reprieve. “Non-profit organizations don’t have to pay $500 to sponsor an event,” said Walt Kass, coordinator for the Tahoe City Parade, which will be held on Saturday, March 1. Any business or organization wishing to enter a float or participate in the parade in some other fashion should contact Kass at 583-5050.

“We’d really like to have more floats than we’ve had in recent years,” he said. Kass also made a plea for additional event sponsors. “We still need a sponsor for fireworks on opening night,” he observed. “And we won’t have a queen for the festival unless someone steps forward and takes that on as a project.”

Kings Beach will host its own parade the following week, on Saturday, March 8. Teresa May, coordinator of that event, reports it will actually be called the Kings Beach Kiddie Kapers Parade. May can be reached at 546-7903.

In addition to continuing the North Shore tradition of hosting a parade at both sites, the 2003 Snow Festival will also feature a Dog Pull – but this time on consecutive weekends. Tahoe City’s Naughty Dawg will once again host the event on Sunday, March 2, and the new Naughty Dawg Baja Grill will sponsor its own Kings Beach version on Saturday, March 8.

Thick-skinned souls who can’t wait for a competitive and icy plunge into the lake should rejoice in the fact that Gar Wood’s will still be the site of the Polar Bear Swim. That event will be held on Saturday, March 1. The next Snow Festival planning session will also be held at the well-known Carnelian Bay dining establishment. That meeting is set for Wednesday, Feb. 5 at 5:00 p.m. Anyone wishing to get involved is invited to attend.

A current schedule of Snow Festival events appears elsewhere on this page. The Tahoe World newspaper in Tahoe City will also be publishing a comprehensive schedule in a special tabloid supplement in the Feb. 27 edition of the newspaper.