It takes special people to make special things happen.
In 1989, there were some special people, indeed, who wanted to bring the Christmas spirit to downtown Carson City creating what they hoped would become an annual holiday event.
As part of the MainStreet effort to begin the revitalization of the downtown, Steve Browne, then general manager of Cactus Jack’s, and Maxine and Fred Nietz of the Arlington Group got together with other volunteers and talked of creating hometown Christmas magic in cooperation with the state that, today, endures because of their concentrated efforts and the cooperation of state, city, and the dedicated music teachers in the Carson City School District.
Maxine Nietz states, “It seems the timing was right for the creation of Silver and Snowflakes Festival of Lights. Steve Browne played basketball with Terry Sullivan who worked for the state and presented it to the right state officials who agreed the event would be a great fit for state/city cooperation on the lawn of the capitol.”
Because the coordination of the event was too labor intensive for busy volunteers, the MainStreet organization asked the Arlington Group to coordinate the annual event, and Fred and Maxine have been doing so since their retirement this year.
Under their supervision, according to Carson City School District music teacher Mary Law who prepares the fifth grade students for this event, “The event has grown from about 100 to many hundreds who look forward annually to attending the tree lighting.”
Upon the announcement of the retirement of the Nietz’, the Chamber was asked to coordinate the event this year to keep the tradition alive.
Coordinating an outdoor winter event has not been without its unique challenges, so states Maxine. “December can be rather capricious and we never knew what kind of weather we were going to have to endure. Sometimes the weather was so volatile, the event needed to be moved inside: one year it was to the old Assembly Room within the capitol that had the fire department concerned because of the overcrowding, and another time we convened in the foyer of the State Library and Archives. We always welcomed the snow, it was the rain that caused the need to scramble for cover and, no matter what, the show had to go on.”
The Redevelopment Authority Citizens Committee and the Redevelopment Authority Board has provided funding for the tree lighting through the special events funding set aside annually and granted to a number of non-profits to attract families and others to enjoy the offerings found in the redevelopment area, mostly concentrated in the downtown.
Each year the event has grown to incorporate something new. To the thrill of the many children, Santa is always there – sometimes showing up in a horse-drawn carriage or a Model T driven by Beauregard, a beautiful Labrador. The past few years, Santa has arrived in a 1927 Seagrave Fire Engine courtesy of the Warren Engine Fire Museum. With that merry twinkle in his eye and a hearty ho-ho-ho, he always passes out candy canes with the help of the local beauty queens and then proceeds to the city tree lighting and other points in the downtown to the delight of all the children.
The sitting Governor or other high-ranking state official light the Capitol tree that, in turn, triggers the switch turning Carson City into a winter wonderland. This year, we are honored Lt. Governor Brian Krolicki has agreed one last time to kick off the Christmas holiday season as one of his last official duties in that job before leaving office. The Mayor then leads a procession to light the City Tree in front of the First Presbyterian Church. Businesses have always been encouraged to participate and, for a few years, live reindeer thrilled children at Telegraph Square.
Today, the Downtown Business Association and the Carson City Elks Club provide refreshments to warm hands and body. New this year is the addition of an inside event at the Carson Nugget allowing Santa to escape the cold and greet children in the winter wonderland setting created by James Burquoi. There’s to be music everywhere thanks to the students of the Carson City School District and the Showstoppers. Plus, as an added feature, children under 12 will be able to skate free on the Arlington Square Ice Rink.
On December 5, as you enjoy the holiday spirit created by the fifth graders as they sing Christmas Carols on the steps of the Capitol, you can’t help but reflect on the importance of an old-fashioned hometown Christmas to get all in the mood for the coming holiday. What could get anyone more in the spirit of the season if not joining the innocent, smiling faces of children in the singing of songs we once sang so lustily ourselves?
We humbly thank Maxine and Fred Nietz for their many years of dedication in bringing us this wonderful event that keeps the hometown magic in our holidays.