Boaters in Las Vegas have been directly affected by the recent government shutdown as Lake Mead is completely closed until the “kids” in Washington figure out this budget. On Sunday, October 6th at least 50 boaters decided to tow their boats up and down Las Vegas Blvd. in protest of Lake Mead’s closure. Boulder Boats, the Las Vegas area MasterCraft, Malibu, Axis, Sanger and Cobalt dealer, posted on their Facebook page earlier in the week and the social media flash mob turnout with boats in tow happened.
Approximately 15 boats towed by employees of Boulder Boats and another six or seven from customers left their shop last Sunday evening for the one-hour planned protest making a leisure drive up and down the strip. A half dozen signs were hanging from the wakeboard towers with statements like “Dear Congress, Do your job…so I can do mine,” “OPEN LAKE MEAD” and “Give Us Back Our National Parks.” Suddenly, as the clock struck 6:00 at the South end of the strip, more boats continued to fall into formation.
In addition to tourists, drunks and sidewalk performers, every major news outlet from the Las Vegas area was on site interviewing customers and employees and getting action shots of the boats rolling down the strip. As the caravan continued, cameras were coming out from those walking on the sidewalk, crowds were cheering, horns were honking and news cameras continued to pop up on several intersections.
The protest was a good time to see a few boats and the social media wildfire provided its point when in the oncoming traffic appeared everything, including 28-foot Sea Ray cruisers, canoes, people partying in their go fast boat while it was being towed down the strip and more wakeboard boats with their tower-speaker-equipped stereos on full blast.
Today Lake Mead is still closed. The government is still shut down. However, every news channel in Las Vegas and every newspaper has this story as a top headline. "We know that our message isn’t going to make congress change their mind," said Stuart Litjens, protest organizer and owner of Boulder Boats. "However, the average person, my neighbor, those people on the strip, have no idea that people’s careers and passion for boating have been affected by this government shutdown."
The trickledown effect is huge as Lake Mead National Recreation Area is not open to 14,000 daily visitors and losing an estimated half a million dollars a day. Boaters in Nevada, meanwhile, should look at Laughlin, Havasu and the Bellagio Fountain as waterways that will be easier to access than Lake Mead.