Capitol Christmas tree lights on, temperatures off |

Capitol Christmas tree lights on, temperatures off

Rick Gunn/Nevada Appeal Autumn Martin, 5, hands out candy canes from a truck carrying Santa on Thursday evening during the annual tree-lighting ceremony at the Capitol. Below, Santa (Rob Davenport) hands out candy canes.

Gov. Kenny Guinn led the countdown from 10 and Secretary of State Dean Heller and Treasurer Brian Krolicki flipped the switch that transformed the snow-covered grounds of the Capitol into a festive supernova of colored lights and popping flashbulbs Thursday night, as the official state Christmas tree was lit.

Hundreds bundled up and braved the below-freezing-but-festive weather to watch the annual event. Participants included Santa Claus himself, arriving with a police escort in his traditional Model-T Ford and passing out candy canes to children who, conspiring, were anxious to bend the old guy’s ear for a few moments.

A chorus of schoolchildren lined the steps of the Capitol, and Carson City elementary students in Santa hats and white gloves played holiday songs on hand bells.

The sounds of cold hoofs on frozen pavement from mounted police directing traffic added a little reindeer-like touch.

Shortly before the lighting, the governor delivered a brief holiday message, calling the season a wonderful time of year.

“It’s a great time for family to rejoice in their children and grandchildren,” he said.

Then he spoke directly to the youth of Carson City.

“There is a place in this great world for you,” he said. “You can grow up and be on this stage someday.”

He gave the example of Secretary of State Dean Heller, a Carson City native.

Then he joked, “And if the lights don’t come on – I want you to blame him.”

The tree, a towering, vertigo-inducing, 129-year-old Colorado blue spruce, is a holiday icon that has served as the official Nevada symbol of Christmas since the late 1930s.

Julie Tedford of Carson City brought her daughters, 6-week-old Branna (relaxing in a covered stroller in a weather-proof nest of warmth) and 2-year-old Amara to watch their big sister, 10-year-old Karenza, perform with the hand bells.

Amara is excited about the prospect of Santa Claus coming to town.

“She calls herself ‘Ho Ho’s girl,'” laughed Tedford, adding that Amara has been a very good girl this year and a wonderful big sister.

With his long white beard and jolly manner, Gary Ashby was easily pegged as one of Santa’s helpers. The proud father of four elves and three grand-elves was on his way to the Hand in Hand fund-raiser at Red’s.

He was wearing sandals, but claimed, “My feet don’t get cold.”

Of course, even the coldest weather that Carson City can muster must be nothing to a guy who spends so much time at the North Pole.

Practically a necessity, the hot chocolate sold out quickly at the Carson Advocates for Cancer Care refreshment booth. Volunteer Pat Williams had to disappoint a lot of chilly spectators.

Mayor Ray Masayko then led the crowd a few blocks to the annual lighting of the city Christmas tree, followed by an open house at City Hall.

Contact reporter Peter Thompson at or 881-1215.