Tahoma, CA (KRNV & MyNews4.com) - Olympic Heritage Celebration Week kicked off at the Sugar Pine Point State Park by Lake Tahoe, today, to commemorate the 1960 Winter Olympics that put the region and Squaw Valley on the map for winter recreation.
This week is all about tradition both new and old. With the dry winter season, organizers invited tribal dancers to pray for snow,
“Every step is a prayer,” says Lois Kane, director of the Eagle Wings Dance Troupe. “Pray real hard for the much needed snow that we need in this area."
The dry start to the season called for the snow dance of the great basin tribes, and with each step, they happily welcomed the first snowfall in weeks.
"We've been in the great basin in the region for 10,000 years,” says song and dance leader, Patricia Hicks.” [It’s] a long time, and these are the traditional dances and the songs and we've passed them down to our children."
It's a deep-rooted tradition and is also a part of a more recent sierra heritage: the winter Olympic Games.
The games came to Lake Tahoe and Squaw Valley in 1960, and it was also a dry season similar to this year. Walt Disney called in the Great Basin tribes to pray for snow, and the games welcomed 12 feet of snow that year.
"We asked them to come in to number one celebrate the beauty of Tahoe, and yes, to bring on more snow,” says Heidi Doyle, the executive director of the Sierra State Parks Foundation which is sponsoring Olympic heritage week to celebrate the games.
"The first biathlon that was held in Olympic history was here so we're standing in the place where Olympic biathlon was born for the first time," explains historian and volunteer, Dave Antonucci.
Former winter Olympic athletes also remember the games.
"This is a particularly nostalgic moment for me,” says Joe Pete Wilson, a 1960 Winter Olympics Bronze Medalist.” I was first here 56 years ago … thinking back to the Olympics, I couldn’t reach high enough to reach the top of the slopes. It was absolutely unbelievable. "
Today, the tradition of lighting Olympic cauldron continues.
Olympic Heritage Week includes Nordic trail tours, meet and greets with winter Olympic athletes, and more. A schedule of events can be found at www.sierrastateparks.org