Gardnerville lights off festivities |

Gardnerville lights off festivities

by Jo Rafferty

The kickoff to the Carson Valley holiday season began in Gardnerville Wednesday night with the lighting of the Heritage Park pavilion and will continue today and Saturday with Minden’s festivities, including the lighting of the Minden Park gazebo.

Gardnerville Town Board Chairman Tom Cook led the crowd of about 200 in a count down before the lights were turned on in Gardnerville’s Heritage Park pavilion at the first ever Carson Valley Christmas Season Kickoff Wednesday.

“Everybody ready?” asked Cook, and with a “five, four, three, two, one,” the white lights came on.

“Whoooo,” said the audience.

People huddled in groups, cupping their steaming drinks of hot cocoa and apple cider, provided by the Town of Gardnerville. Gardnerville Town Board members handed out chestnuts, actually being roasted on an open fire on this chilly November evening. Rain threatened to put a damper on the event in the first few minutes prior to the lighting, but by the time the Carson Valley Middle School band began playing its renditions of several familiar Christmas carols, the rain disappeared and it stayed dry throughout the hour-long celebration.

Heritage Park, at the corner of Gilman Avenue and Courthouse Alley, east of Sharkey’s, has been four years in the making, according to Gardnerville town manager Jim Park. In 2004 the pavilion was dedicated and this year restrooms were constructed, allowing for events to be held at the park.

When asked if the Kickoff would become an annual tradition, Park said, “Absolutely.”

Both the young and the old appeared to be enjoying themselves.

“I feel like I’m back in my childhood, and I’m a great grandmother,” said Maren Young, 74, of Gardnerville. “This is the reason why I live here.”

“We think it’s pretty outstanding these youngsters will come out here and do this,” said Maren’s husband Dick, 75. “It’s like an old-fashioned Christmas.”

Children were wide-eyed as they watched the melodrama “Santa’s Little Helper,” performed by the Carson Valley Community Theater. In the play, Santa received a letter from his evil sister Clarice, asking him to visit his long-lost sick uncle.

“No, Santa. Don’t go,” yelled the crowd.

Clarice, wearing a black Santa hat, tricked Santa into leaving the North Pole and letting her take his place. But, what she was actually after was a gold mine.

“But, the question is, who’s fooling who?” asked producer and director Dennis Little.

Cast members were: Phil Ritger, Santa; Linda Diego, Clarice Claus; Clara Ritger, Dolly; Mary Sophia Begovich Richardson, Mr. Elf; Christa Campbell, junior elf; and Vicki Hargrove, audience cue cards.

In the end, all was well and Santa came on stage to hand out candy canes. Attendees ate Dutch oven cobbler, baked by James Preston, a town employee.

“Santa’s Little Helper” will be presented again during the traditional Christmas events in Minden this weekend.