Nugget feeds 800 for Christmas |

Nugget feeds 800 for Christmas

Rex Bovee

In some ways, Christmas was like most holidays at the Carson City Nugget’s restaurants with decorations in place.

But Christmas dinner was free at the Nugget for about 800 people who took advantage of the casino’s annual gift, a tradition now in its fifth decade.

“We were well-staffed, to make it more efficient and to make it shine for the guests,” restaurant manager James Chavez said.

“Though employees give up the holiday, we never have a problem staffing it,” he said. “They come in here with a smile, because they know it’s for a good cause.”

He said the casino served about 1,300 meals on Saturday.

The free Christmas meals started shortly after the Adams family bought the casino in 1957. Nugget spokesman Doug Brown said the Adamses noticed the community did not have agencies then to help the needy as did larger communities.

“They felt that, if there were people who didn’t have a Christmas meal, they would do that,” Brown said. The family did the same at Thanksgiving and free meals at the Nugget those two holidays have become a tradition, he said.

“The great thing is that this is exactly the same meal that others pay for,” Brown said. The customer gets the same food and hospitality either way, he said.

And Chavez gets to play Santa during the day, handing out candy canes to the children in the restaurants. Chavez said he has enjoyed playing the role for the past two Christmases.

The casino tradition also benefits another local group, the kitchen and dining room employees and volunteers at Friends in Service Helping, FISH.

“We do about 100 meals a day 363 days a year,” FISH Executive Director Monte Fast said Tuesday.

“On Christmas, the Nugget takes the load.

“That makes it great for our hardworking staff and volunteers, because they do this every day.”

He said he gets about a dozen calls every Christmas from other people who want to volunteer to help serve meals that day, but that’s an offer he has to let pass.

“Lots of volunteers do help out with our Thanksgiving meal and with preparing and distributing our Christmas baskets,” Fast said. “And we did have our annual Christmas Dinner on the 23rd, in honor of Wanda Blaine.”

He said Blaine had helped with the FISH dinner for many years and had managed to have presents for everyone until her death three years ago.

This year about 140 attended the dinner, with holiday decorations, candles and Santa, Fast said. And, just as Blaine had intended, everyone went away with a gift.