South Tahoe launches summer with gondola, boats and bikes |

South Tahoe launches summer with gondola, boats and bikes

Associated Press

Carrie Richards/Nevada Appeal News Service Conor Rezendes and Blake Boner take a plunge into the cool water at Sand Harbor. Summertime events abound at the lake's summer kickoff this weekend. There is something for everyone from swimming to motorcycle stunt shows to geocaching.

STATELINE – Lake Tahoe kicks off its summer this weekend with a party that will shut down Highway 50 for the first time since New Year’s Eve so crowds can watch motorcycle stunt jumpers make their vaults between the south shore’s towering hotel-casinos.

There also will be a beauty pageant, live entertainment, food booths and cycle and hot rod displays, all following the annual sternwheeler race on Tahoe between Nevada’s M.S Dixie II and California’s Tahoe Queen. The Dixie II is the defending champion and leads the series 4-2.

On land, Highway 50, one of the key links between Northern Nevada and Northern California, will be closed through the south shore casino corridor from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. today. Traffic will be routed around the half-mile closure on roads that pass both north and south of the high-rise resort casinos.

Backers hope to make the extended block party an annual event, underscoring the end of Tahoe’s ski season and the beginning of its swimming, bicycling and golfing period.

“We’re taking it to the streets,” Patrick Kaler, executive director of the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority said. “A celebration of this magnitude requires the road to be closed to traffic and open to partiers.”

The same stretch of highway is traditionally closed on New Year’s Eve when celebrants by the thousands throng in front of the casinos. The summertime closure is a first and took some effort to pull off, Kaler said.

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“It’s new, it’s different, it’s a major departure from the norm and that in itself means all the agencies have to be assured the event will be properly organized and operated,” he said.

The organizers estimate they spent $125,000 obtaining permits from governmental agencies on both sides of the California-Nevada line as well as the approval of nine official organizations and consent and endorsement from surrounding businesses and law enforcement agencies.

“We’re a gambling town so we’re used to taking chances,” Kaler said.

The weekend festivities began on Friday with the reopening of Heavenly Mountain Resort’s gondola in California a block from the Nevada line.

“Tahoe is a proven leader in combining the great outdoors and the great indoors,” Kaler said. “This is just another example of what visitors want and we’re glad we can provide it.”