Carson Nugget celebrates 50 years of free Thanksgivings
Appeal Staff Writer
Fifty years of free Thanksgiving meals.
And to think it started with one hungry family of four.
“Legend has it, a couple with two young children came into the coffee shop and didn’t have any money – it was Thanksgiving,” said Kelly Brant, Carson Nugget director of marketing. “The folks working decided they wouldn’t go hungry that day – and the rest, well …”
On Thursday, the Nugget expects to feed more than 3,500 casino customers as well as those in need. The tradition started in 1957 – when Howard and Hop Adams opened the downtown Carson Street casino.
Even staff admits the free Thanksgiving meal has taken on a life of its own and become a major part of the casino’s reputation.
“I know how it sounds, but people really do consider the staff here family,” Brant said. “I can’t tell you how many regulars sit down here every Thanksgiving next to the people that work here. They share stories, catch up – but most of all, enjoy the meal.”
Nugget Sous Chef Sal Bracamontes, who will celebrate this Thanksgiving putting the finishing touches on his 15th Thanksgiving Day meal, said every year helping feed those who wouldn’t normally have a warm meal is rewarding – but this year may be special.
And not because of the half-century anniversary.
“You look out there and you know people are in need,” he said. “It’s been a particularly rough year for a lot of people. People have lost jobs, lost their homes. Things are slow, real slow.
“I know we’re going to get a lot of people in here that really will be thankful – that really could use something to be thankful for.”
Bracamontes has been in “full-time Thanksgiving meal prep” since early morning Monday. Supervising a crew of four carvers, he has been cooking turkeys, 24 at a time, in the restaurant’s rotisserie.
The Nugget bakery is attempting to turn out 240 pies before Thursday morning. Somewhere in between, 600 pounds of ham will accompany 600 pounds of yams, 600 pounds of mashed potatoes and 60 gallons of gravy in the kitchen.
“Fortunately, 60 to 70 percent of my staff has been here 10 years or more,” Bracamontes said. “So, it’s like clockwork. We know what to do and when we need to do it – but there’s not much time to spare.”
“A well-oiled machine,” said Brant, whose decade of service with the Nugget will also be quietly marked on Thanksgiving Day.
Brant, Bracamontes and the Nugget’s restaurant manager Mike Hart estimate they will spend 12 to 18 hours on Thanksgiving at their place of business.
All three seemed sincere when they individually noted they’ll miss spending the day with their immediate families – but there are rewarding things going on at their place of business.
“I mean this, and I think I speak on behalf of the crew here in the kitchen – that if just one person comes in here Thursday, hungry, and gets a good meal and feels a little bit better about things, then all this is worth it,” Bracamontes said. “I’ll be looking forward to seeing my family later in the day. But, when I’m here – this is family too.”
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By the numbers
Carson Nugget chefs will prepare:
• 1,100 lbs. turkey
• 800 lbs. stuffing
• 250 lbs. veggies
• 600 lbs. ham
• 600 lbs. yams
• 600 lbs. mashed potatoes
• 60 gallons of gravy
• 240 pumpkin and pecan pies
Why this year may be the biggest ever:
“A lot of other area organizations have canceled their Thanksgiving meals – a lot of people in the community may be looking to us this year,” said Kelly Brant, Nugget marketing director.