Cookies, crafts and Claus makes kids jolly |

Cookies, crafts and Claus makes kids jolly

Karen Woodmansee
Appeal Staff Writer
BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Ron Miarecki, from right, E.T. Thomas, and Jerry Myers, ride through a snowstorm at Washoe Lake State Park during the Cowboy Christmas celebration on Saturday.

Mother Nature provided the winter wonderland and Nevada State Parks employees brought plenty of holiday atmosphere for about 40 families enjoying Christmas in the Park with Santa on Saturday at Washoe Lake State Park.

The event featured mule-drawn hayrides, visits with Santa Claus, Christmas crafts and lots of holiday treats.

“We’re the only ones brave enough to have these outdoor events,” said park supervisor Dominic Bravo. “And we’re going to keep doing it because the community loves it. A lot of people don’t realize there’s a park between Carson and Reno.” Bravo said twice as many families participated in this event than in the first one last year.

One who was having a good time was Bravo’s 6-year-old son, James.

“I’m going to make a pine cone tree, then try out all the crafts,” he said.

He had his work cut out for him, with enough craft options to keep him busy for the entire afternoon. In addition to the brightly decorated and painted pine cones, kids could make ornaments and decorations with felt, paper, beads and other colorful materials.

James’ sister, Kaitlyn, 3, decided she liked the candy canes more than the Christmas activity book the children received, but she managed to help the Grinch find his way home in one game. The book was filled with pages to color, word games and other activities.

The younger set weren’t the only ones displaying their talent and sweat. The event’s volunteers, mostly park employees, worked hard to make the day full of Christmas spirit.

Terrill Ozawa, who has worked for the parks for nine years, helped create large plywood cutouts of Christmas scenes, such as snowmen, Santa Claus, penguins and even a signpost pointing the way to the North Pole.

“It took us quite awhile,” she said. “We drew it, then cut it out with a table saw, then painted it.”

The wooden decorations were placed along a route taken by a couple more hard workers – Megan and John, two mules that pulled the hayride through the snowy park.

Though the chestnuts roasting on an open fire were replaced with hot dogs, other traditional treats were available – gingerbread men, Christmas cookies and cupcakes, hot chocolate and spiced cider.

In the midst of the foods, treats and crafts, the kids managed to tell Santa Claus what they wanted for Christmas.

Journey McMillan, 8, of North Reno wanted a Nintendo DS game system for Christmas, while his sister, Kaylee, 4, was interested in a Barbie doll.

James Bravo was more expansive in his list to Santa.

“I want a chemistry set, a pocket watch, an MP3 and peace on earth,” he said.

Santa, also known as Garland Francis, said his season began in June, with the Toys for Tots kickoff. He also has appeared at the Advocates for Domestic Violence Christmas event and other events. His wife, Marion, often is Mrs. Claus, though she decided to take Saturday off.

“We really enjoy doing this,” he said. “You get so much more out of it than you put into it. We have had some wonderful experiences.”

• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at or 882-2111 ext. 351.