Nugget continues tradition of giving to Carson City |

Nugget continues tradition of giving to Carson City

Barry Ginter
Nevada Appeal Editor

When Al McCaughan and his wife, Elizabeth, first came to Carson City in 1990, they needed all the help they could get. The Carson Nugget’s free Christmas dinner brightened Christmas during those hard times.

So appreciative were they that even now they make visiting the Nugget a holiday tradition. McCaughan, retired from his job as an office manager, said they come not just for the good food, but to give the waitresses a good tip.

“When we first started coming here, we were in need,” he said. “Now we come just to be a part of this community. They’ve been doing this for so many years … the Nugget always has good food.”

The casino has been giving free holiday meals to the community for 50 years, and Tuesday’s fare of turkey, ham and all the fixings attracted an estimated 400 people. That pales in comparison to the crowd that shows up for the Nugget’s free Thanksgiving meal, but it was enough to keep employees busy for the three-hour event.

In addition to the five people working the line in the kitchen, the Nugget had 23 others handling everything from serving to cleaning up. None seemed to mind working on Christmas.

“The fun part about it is it’s going for a good cause,” said server Lee Reardon, 72, who’s been a Nugget employee for 32 years. She said she didn’t mind working because the rest of her family was also at work on Christmas.

The crowd was comprised of Nugget regulars a well as new faces to the casino. Jesse Diaz, who just moved here from San Bernardino, Calif., to take a job, said he might be spending Christmas alone if it weren’t for the dinner.

Instead, he was spending it with friends Robert Thompson and his wife, Shere, at the Nugget. The couple was keeping watch over their granddaughter, Tatam, 5, who was visiting from San Diego, and taking great delight in showing off her Christmas present, a Barbie doll.

“I think it’s very nice the Nugget does this,” said Diaz. “I feel very blessed.”

Betty Bauman also attended with her husband, Paul. They were on the way home from their granddaughter’s home in Gardnerville where they got to watch their great grandchildren open their presents. They did the same thing last year and were surprised that the Nugget was putting on the Christmas meal. Now it’s becoming a tradition.

Other diners saw the free dinner as a good way to cut out one more holiday chore.

“Christmas is stressful enough,” said Kelli Bradbury, who was enjoying the dinner with her family, including three children.

Dorothy Iverson, 74, and her husband, Edward, came from Sparks for the dinner. The drive over was much more practical than cooking a Christmas dinner for two people, since their three children are grown and gone.

“It was so good at Thanksgiving,” she said.

Lea McCauley, 44, was with nine other family members, including the youngest person to attend the dinner, her 2-week-old daughter, Heavenlea.

If Heavenlea had arrived according to schedule, she would have been a New Year’s baby, but Lea wasn’t complaining.

“I feel very blessed,” Lea said. “I got a new baby for Christmas … what more could you ask for?”

By the Numbers

How much food did the Nugget prepare for its free Christmas meal?

200 pounds of vegetables

150 pounds of yams

400 pounds of mashed potatoes

30 gallons of giblet gravy

1,200 pounds of turkey

200 pounds of ham

120 pies