Last-minute preparations for tree lighting under way

It's beginning to look a lot like ... well, you know the rest.

As the season's first snow flurries in the Sierra are set to ring in December late this week, the official ambassadors of Carson's annual Silver & Snowflakes celebration are busy as ...

"Well, we're busy, lets just say that," said state grounds supervisor Marty Phillips, refusing to cooperate and label his staff with an elf-like work ethic. "Nope, pretty much from this point on, we're in full decorating mode."

Starting Tuesday at noon, Phillips and two groundskeepers began decorating the 40-foot tree in the Legislative Plaza with more than 200 light strands.

"It actually takes quite a bit of lights to cover a tree that size with (bulbs) 6 to 8 inches apart," said Phillips, who estimates he's been in charge of decorating the area near the Capitol for more than 18 years. "We try to put something new in every year - something a little different."

While Phillips and his crew work the remainder of the week hanging lights and garland, next week will be spent setting up risers and more lights and ensuring that the engineer who is working on the "State Tree" is on schedule - all to culminate in the official tree-lighting ceremony at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 6.

"We try to do a little more every year," Phillips said. "We also have to continually test through the week - watch out for how much electricity we use and make sure the circuits stay (intact)."

Indeed, the logistics behind the tree-lighting can be complicated, said Maxine Nietz, event coordinator for the Arlington Group - the celebration's planners.

"Everyone who's been involved in this has been doing this for years, so we've got a good handle on it," said Nietz, an organizer for the past 12 years. "But this is something we get going on early. I start thinking about the (tree lighting) in August and I like to pin down the date and time and notify everybody on the committee in September.

"So, we're in the home stretch."

Area elementary school students this week are working with "Willow" Bill Goulardt, who makes his annual visit to local schools as well as Cub and Boy Scout troops to teach them the art of making a reindeer out of coyote willow branches.

"Willow" Bill began helping area youth craft wooden woodland creatures 14 years ago after an innocent question from a 2-year-old.

"I was baby-sitting and she was watching 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' and I was building furniture. She walked outside and asked why I didn't make reindeer," Bill said.

In that time, "Willow" Bill has helped craft more than 2,000 reindeer. This year's effort should be the biggest yet for Carson City, Nietz said.

"I know he's been out there working away," she said. "In the past, they've had about a dozen (reindeer). This year there'll be a lot more than that."

The tree lighting festivities will also feature Santa's arrival in a 1926 Model T Ford, the state and city tree lighting, a candlelight procession, messages from Gov. Jim Gibbons and Carson City Mayor Marv Teixeira - plus some behind-the-scenes work that will make the holiday season seem "all the more real," Nietz said.

"Before, when the governor flipped the switch for the (tree) lights, it wasn't directly connected.

"This year, when he flips the switch on, it'll be the real deal."

• Contact reporter Andrew Pridgen at or 881-1219.

List of events

Silver & Snowflakes Holiday Tree Lighting events on Dec. 6:

5:30 p.m. Carson fifth-grade students sing along with the Carson Middle School handbell choir in accompaniment

5:35 p.m. Santa arrives

5:40 p.m. Remarks from Gov. Jim Gibbons

5:45 p.m. State tree lighting

5:55 p.m. Remarks from Mayor Marv Teixeira

6 p.m. Candlelight procession to the city tree

6:15 p.m. City tree lighting

6:30 p.m. City Hall open house

6:30-8:30 p.m. Downtown open house


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment