Cassidy Shoebert got one of the biggest surprises of her 6-year-old life Thursday when Gov. Kenny Guinn lifted her out of a crowd to help light the state Christmas trees.
"I turned on all the lights!" she said.
Cassidy and about 1,000 other people joined Guinn and his wife, Dema, in the start of the holiday season.
Parents jostled for the best position to take pictures of their children singing in the 300-plus Carson City Elementary School Choir on the Capitol steps. The Holiday Brass Ensemble mingled the sounds of tubas, trumpets and other horns with the children's voices.
Children clad in Santa caps jangled bells and chatted excitedly before their performance, and after singing Jingle Bells, 300 pairs of mitten-covered hands signed "Silent Night" in careful sign language.
Guinn sang a few rounds with the choir, faltering on the last few verses to "Jingle Bells." Before flipping a switch to light the state Christmas trees and all of downtown Carson City, the governor reminded the crowd what they should be thankful for this holiday season.
"If we have first of all our families and our health, there is no present we really need," he said.
For some, this year's tree lighting was a first, for others, a long-standing tradition.
For James Woodmancy, 12, and his grandfather, Dennis Schwartz, heading to the Capitol for the tree lighting is a seven-year tradition.
"I liked how there were two trees and not just one," Woodmancy said. "It gives you two trees to look at. It's kind of like them dropping the big ball in New York, only for us. They drop a big ball, we light trees."
It was Pat Wentworth's first trip to the tree lighting. Her daughter, Tori, played trumpet in the brass ensemble, and she said watching the tree lighting was a neat experience.
"It's one of the advantages of living in the capital, you get to come to things like this," she said.
The Rener family has been coming to the tree lightings for 11 years.
"This is the closest thing to the big city lights," Jean Renner said. "I grew up in Chicago, and this is the closest I will get to the big store windows. It really pumps you up for the holidays."
Bob Schachten brings has brought his three children to the Capitol for about five years.
"In events like this, the community gathers together like family," he said. "It brings people out, everyone is enjoying it. You don't get that in a bigger city."
Jackie Gordon was enjoying her second Christmas in Carson, milling with dozens of revelers at City Hall where free hot chocolate, cider and cake flowed freely. She said the state and city tree lightings helped "start the spirit of the holiday season."
"This has a wonderful, hometown feeling," she said. "You feel like you're out with your neighbors. We love this."
Festivities were added to by the city's tree lighting on Nevada and Musser streets, and Santa in a Model T. Santa also spent a good portion of the day at Telegraph Square, introducing children to his reindeer.
The Western Nevada Community College also caught the holiday spirit with a lighting ceremony Thursday. A chorale performance followed the ceremony.