Tahoe uses GPS devices in its search to attract visitors

Geocaches will be hidden from Zephyr Cove to Emerald Bay this weekend, in anticipation of treasure hunters by the thousand, says John Chen, chief executive officer of PlayTime Inc.

The Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority contacted with Seattle-based PlayTime Inc. to provide the high-tech game at its annual summer tourist season kickoff festivities this weekend at South Shore.

"We were looking for something interesting and unique that would showcase the south shore," says Patrick Kaler, executive director of the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority. "Geocaching is the 'it' thing right now. It appeals to the demographic we want."

Kaler said he expects to have about 200 families or teams show up to participate. GPS receivers will be available for free rental to those who do not bring their own devices.

The cost of the geocaching activity was not broken out of the overall $40,000 budget for opening weekend festivities. Nor could he predict the long-term economic impact of the high tech treasure hunt.

Geocaching requires a handheld Global Positioning Device to display latitude and longitude coordinates. Participants follow clues that lead to a hidden cache. While it's fun to find a prize, the real thrill is in the chase.

When treasure seekers register for the event at Harvey's Convention Center on Saturday at 11:30 a.m., they will receive a brief overview of how the free GPS system works, a list of the prizes and location coordinates of each cache.

Each of the 50 prizes will be awarded to the first person that locates a particular cache. Another 50 prizes will be awarded at random via raffle to contestants at the closing party, Sunday afternoon at Riva Grill.

Among the 50 prizes are concert tickets, accommodations, boat rides and rentals, para-sailing, balloon rides, tee times, horseback rides, and dinners.

PlayTime, which ordinarily specializes in corporate team-building events, has assigned three staffers to design the course, and another five to run the event.

Phil Weidinger Public Relations, the Tahoe public relations agency hired to promote the summer season kickoff, located PlayTime through the web site, www.geocaching.com.

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