Serbian Christmas draws huge crowds to Sharkey’s
The sign by the doorway says, “Sretan Bosic.”And a Merry Christmas it was.
At the 28th Serbian Christmas dinner put on by the Milos “Sharkey” Begovich family at Sharkey’s Nugget Casino in Gardnerville, old friends and family gathered together to help their old friends, the Begoviches, say thanks to the community.
Paul Harr has been volunteering at the free dinner for 15 years and worked at Sharkey’s for years before that.
Thursday night he was serving wine.
“He said if I didn’t come he wouldn’t like me any more,” Harr said, pointing to Sharkey. “So we come to help him. He’s just a nice guy and it’s a nice thing to do for the community.”
The event gets larger every year, Sharkey said.
“I started it in 1971 and it naturally started as a small thing, but it’s grown so it’s not even believable to the people who haven’t seen it,” he said. “It just tickles me to be able to do it.”
Sharkey is continuing the tradition started by his mother at her boarding house in Plymouth, Calif., as a way to thank her customers.
– Volunteers. The people who show up every year to help are “overwhelming,” Sharkey said.
This year, the 50 pigs and 50 goats he serves as part of the dinner almost didn’t make it since the Carson Valley Meat Co. closed down.
“If it wasn’t for (past owner) Bill Mendes going out of his way, I wouldn’t have gotten it down. He knew there were problems and he went to Fallon and got them butchered,” Sharkey said.
One of the volunteers is famous for giving back to his community. State Sen. Lawrence Jacobsen, R-Minden, has been serving pears every year since the feast started and his daughter, Susan, has stood beside him in the serving line for about 10 years.
“Sharkey is one of the greatest. I realize he is a Democrat, but he said I’m the only Republican he ever voted for,” Jacobsen joked. “When I first started, we were giving everyone a whole pear and we only had one or two boxes, but Sharkey said he knew a good Republican could stretch them.”
Susan said the wonderful people keep her coming back.
“I just love the people and the spirit of giving – that’s something that was taught to me by my dad,” she said.
Marion Barritt, who teaches soaring at the Minden-Tahoe Airport, said she has been serving food for about 12 years.
“There’s nothing like it. I got to know Sharkey the first year I came and I signed up to volunteer for the next year,” Barritt said.
She said she always brings in her soaring students from all over the world to Sharkey’s and one year she brought a German journalist who loved the dinner and the man behind it so much he wrote a story that was printed in the Hamburg paper.
– Thanks, Sharkey. David Stewart is an anthropology professor who teaches part-time at the Douglas campus of Western Nevada Community College.
The people who come to the event hold the fascination for Stewart.
“Just look around – the types and variety of people – it’s a cross section not only of the community, but of the entire nation,” Stewart said. “Plus, it’s a wonderful party.”
He said it was a testimony to the type of community the Carson Valley is.
“It’s quite unique. I’ve never lived in a place that had an affair like this. It wouldn’t exist without the volunteers and it wouldn’t exist without Sharkey,” he said.
Mashelle Begovich also thanked her dad the day after the event. She estimated 4,300 people enjoyed the free dinner.
“Everything went perfect. We couldn’t ask for better crowd or better help. I want thank everybody for participating. We hope to see them all next year. And thanks to Sharkey for making it all possible,” she said.
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