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Lake Tahoe convention commemorates 50th anniversary of “Bonanza.”
Photo: Andrew J. Klyde Collection (all)
“Bonanza” premiered on NBC September 12, 1959, and by the time the trail dust settled some 14 years and 430 episodes later, the Cartwrights of the Ponderosa rode into history and into the hearts of a half billion people worldwide. Gone, but far from forgotten, the show continues to gain followers through worldwide syndication and has spawned countless fan clubs from its throngs of loyal rerun watchers.
To celebrate half a century of “Bonanza,” hundreds of Ponderosa faithful will converge at Stateline (South Lake Tahoe), September 10-14, for the 50th-Anniversary Bonanza Friendship Convention. Event-goers range from admirers who watched the show from its conception to more recent enthusiasts. “I discovered ‘Bonanza’ [a short time ago] and enjoyed the way the Cartwrights pulled together,” “Bonanza” buff Ellen Rich says. “I started watching the show [on cable] and taping it to watch in the evenings and on weekends. I’m hooked!”
Incline Village’s Ponderosa Ranch theme park was used as the backdrop for some filming and for 37 years, until it closed in September 2004, was among Northern Nevada’s most popular tourist destinations. Though the park is gone, Lake Tahoe’s majestic pines, clean mountain air, and untouched beauty still make it an appropriate venue to host this milestone event for such an icon of the American West.
The convention, hosted by Bonanza Gold magazine, includes tours of Virginia City and Lake Tahoe, a “Bonanza” birthday celebration and dinner, a charity auction, a champagne breakfast cruise on the M.S. Dixie II, daily and nightly episode screenings, and a special Ponderosa Ranch tour. Fanatic Eva Mayer will make the 3,000-mile trip from Québec, Canada to attend the event. After her first “Bonanza” convention in 2005, Mayer learned that a special Lorne Greene (Ben Cartwright) postage stamp was soon to be released. Since, she has sent more than 300 postcards with the stamp to fans around the world, including the show’s creator, David Dortort, who sent a signed card back. “Now that is truly a treasure,” Mayer says.
As part of the 50th-anniversary celebration, “Bonanza: The First Season,” Volumes 1 and 2, arrive on DVD September 15 from CBS Home Entertainment and Paramount Home Entertainment.
December 10, 1928 – May 13, 1972
Sadly, Blocker died before the final episode in 1973. Blocker, who played the lovable character “Hoss,” died from complications following gall bladder surgery.
February 12, 1915 – September 11, 1987
Greene went on to star in TV’s “Griff,” “Battlestar Galactica,” and “Code Red.” He was set to revive his role as Ben Cartwright in “Bonanza: The Next Generation,” but production was halted after his death from pneumonia.
October 31, 1936 – July 1, 1991
Landon (shown at left with fans in Reno) created two successful TV series, “Little House on the Prairie” and “Highway to Heaven.” He succumbed to pancreatic cancer during the production of a third series, “Us.” His widow and two of his children are expected at this year’s convention.
Born May 18, 1928
After leaving the show in 1965, Roberts starred in CBS’s “Trapper John, M.D.” and ABC’s “FBI: The Untold Stories.” Roberts is the sole survivor of the original “Bonanza” cast.
Watch the video below to see how the Ponderosa got its name: