Governor lights up the Capitol |

Governor lights up the Capitol

Karl Horeis
BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Residents join together to celebrate the annual tree lighting at the Capital Thursday evening.

About a thousand people waited in front of the Capitol on Thursday evening as Gov. Kenny Guinn lead a countdown before lighting the state Christmas tree. Kids sucking candy canes scurried underfoot as everybody counted “three, two, one!” – and the multicolored lights flashed on.

“Have a great, safe and happy, happy Christmas and New Year’s Day,” said the governor with his wife, Dema, smiling beside him. “Thanks so much for being great families.”

Guinn spoke in front of parents in knit hats craning to get pictures and 300 members of the Fifth-Grade Music Students Singing Ensemble. The singers, many in Santa hats and one with a flashing Rudolph nose, lined the Capitol steps and bleachers. They came from Seeliger, Mark Twain, Empire, Bordewich-Bray and Fremont schools.

Directing the Empire students in songs like “Joy to the World” and “Deck the Halls” was music teacher Christina O’Neil, who is also Miss Nevada 2003. She was introduced by Mayor Ray Masayko, who later lit the city tree at the corner of Nevada and Musser streets.

“Doesn’t it look absolutely spectacular?” he said, gazing at the sparkling Capitol tree. “This is what memories are made of – especially for the little ones.”

Accompanying the chorale group Thursday was the Red Hot Bell Peppers Handbell choir coordinated by Nancy Mielke. As their ringing tones were relayed into the crowd by scattered speakers, kids crowded around Santa on the Capitol grounds. He arrived in a Ford Model T driven by a 14-month-old golden retriever named Beauregard.

“He’s doing pretty good, but he’s awful hyper,” said the dog’s owner, Bill Williamson.

With his tongue hanging out and wearing a red sweater, Beau couldn’t get enough of the swarming kids. Williamson’s great-granddaughters Shelby Abeyta, 13, and Haley Abeyta, 7, and great-great-granddaughter Autumn Martin, 4, distributed candy canes from the back of the car.

Back on stage, Guinn held up a lost little boy. The governor handed the boy to a relative then laughed into the microphone, “He said, ‘I don’t want you, I want my brother.'”

Santa hat-clad Lou and Dianne Murray enjoyed their first Capitol Christmas tree lighting Thursday, having just moved to Dayton.

“It’s cute,” she said.

“It’s nice,” he added.

Carson City supervisor Robin Williamson stayed warm by the newly lit tree with her husband, Phil.

She said she is excited about events being organized by volunteers who work for the city. The group was headed to Carson’s new Thai restaurant, The Basil.

Rob Morris had fun, but was disappointed in the event’s lighting. Four spotlights pointed over the singers’ heads, blinding the audience. The speakers’ faces weren’t lit, just silhouetted from behind.

“Everybody’s walking around going, ‘I can’t see,'” he said. “My only complaint is the lights, otherwise it’s great,” he said.

After the ceremony, Beau’s Model T led a procession to the city tree. From there, many people went to Telegraph Square, where several businesses were open late offering refreshments.

This year’s ceramic ornaments, which look like the Nevada State Museum, were sold at the Lofty Expressions Idea House. They ordered more of last year’s popular Laxalt building ornaments. Both are $15.

“And we’re offering 40 percent off our Italian charms,” said clerk Kim Hill.

Mo & Sluggo’s Bar and Grill at 110 West Telegraph was open late offering food specials.

Farther south down Carson Street, Red’s Old 395 Grill held an “After the Lights Party.” They spent about $5,000 on holiday decorations put up by freelance decorator Toby Austin.

“When you walk through the door, you just get bombarded with the Christmas spirit,” said manager Don Leyba.

Local juggling wizard CJ Smith performed while carolers provided holiday cheer, kids made gingerbread houses, and smiling people sipped eggnog.