A touch of the Big Easy comes West

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Charles Adams shows off his Mardi Gras Christmas tree, decorated to remind people of the spirit of New Orleans.

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Charles Adams shows off his Mardi Gras Christmas tree, decorated to remind people of the spirit of New Orleans.

Rescue dogs, California wine and Barbie.

This group of items is part of an elite list and this year they welcomed the newest member, Mardi Gras.

Each of the items has been the featured theme at the Christmas celebrations of Charles Adams and his friends of Carson City.

"For the last seven to eight years a group of friends has pulled out Christmas themes from news stories," Adams said.

They honored the rescue dogs, following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, with presents and a tree decorated with canines. After commentator Bill O'Reilly urged Americans to boycott French wine following the country's refusal to support an invasion of Iraq, the group's party was based on the celebration of California's wineries. When Barbie turned 40, the group decided it was only right to honor Mattel's icon.

"We had Barbies on the tree, Barbie wrapping paper and every present had something to do with Barbie, even the presents for the guys," Adams said. "We just try not to be political with the stories we pick out."

This year, the group was struck by the images and stories that emerged following Hurricane Katrina in August.

"The visuals from the news coverage showed us how fragile we are as a nation and a people in relation to catastrophic events," Adams said. "We wanted to focus on one of the biggest parts of New Orleans: Mardi Gras."

The planning of the celebration began in October with research on the history and workings of Mardi Gras. From there, Adams and his associates Charles McCleod and Nancy Becker began making the 30 masks to adorn the tree. Then came the decorations for the more than 100 gifts, everything from a toy octopus and figurines to crosses.

Adams said the biggest challenge was the Christmas tree, a 18-foot spruce tree covered in beads, masks and feathers.

"That took us a long time because a Mardi Gras tree is unusual in its own right and it takes a lot of planning and extensive research. The colors of Mardi Gras are green, gold and purple, so we needed to make those the dominant colors in everything we did," said Adams. "I just want it to be festive, colorful and interesting and capture the holiday spirit."

It took three tries to get the tree the way they wanted it. They focused on the centerpiece of the celebration and large party held Dec. 10.

"You need the food to suit the theme as well, so we served jambalaya, shrimp gumbo, oysters, red beans and rice, pralines and bread pudding," Adams said.

While all the celebrations are memorable, Adams said this one had a special meaning because of several events in his own life. The first was during the Waterfall fire, when Adams's Kings Canyon home was in danger of burning.

"The fire came down the hill in the back and the firemen suggested we take our possessions and leave and I looked back into my home and thought, 'What do I take? What's most valuable,'" he recalled.

In the end, Adams and his neighbors decided to stay and successfully kept the fire from devouring their homes, but the experience of trying to determine what is most valuable when told to leave his home behind stuck with him.

Then, because of the heavy snowfall last winter, Adams' home suffered water damage, requiring extensive repairs.

"Having been through those things, I could kind of, sort of, relate to what Katrina victims are going through. It's easy to relate to the devastation because we realize there are people who won't have a Christmas, who won't have presents," he said.

Now with more than two months worth of work done, Adams said he just wants to enjoy the decorations before they come down the day after Christmas.

"Some of the things we do sound crazy or zany but let's face it, Christmas is the last American family holiday and we are just doing things to keep it fun," Adams said.

n Contact reporter Jarid Shipley at jshipley@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1217.


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