Sharkey’s Christmas on Jan. 7 |

Sharkey’s Christmas on Jan. 7

by Merrie Leininger

As you read this, you may be nursing the traditional New Year’s hangover, but it’s time to prepare for another holiday celebration.

This time, it’s the traditional Serbian Christmas that Milos “Sharkey” Begovich delivers as faithfully as Santa Claus every Jan. 7. Sharkey’s Nugget Casino at the corner of Gilman and Highway 395 is a well-known landmark in Gardnerville, and Sharkey said, once a year, he likes to give back to the local people who treat him so well.

Sharkey’s mother was from Serbia and took her Eastern Orthodox Christmas dinner tradition to her Plymouth, Calif., boarding house.

When Sharkey opened the casino 30 years ago, he decided to continue the tradition. The event gets larger every year, he 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 at last year’s celebration. “It just tickles me to be able to do it.”

His daughter, Mashelle Begovich, said she and her brother, Butch, grew up with the tradition, which will be held for the 29th time this year, and their children take part in it now.

She said they expect a large turnout. Last year, more than 4,000 people came to dinner at the casino.

She said 35 goats and 25 pigs have been slaughtered for Friday’s dinner, and the hordes of volunteers who have helped serve the food for years and years will be back again.

Sharkey said the people who show up every year to help are “overwhelming.”

Mashelle said despite the massive amount of food needed to feed so many people, they are prepared.

“We’re ready. We think it’s going to be a wonderful, big turnout this year. Just because the way it falls on a weekend and the new millennium,” she said. “I hate to say it’s going to be bigger (than last year) because people won’t come. Besides being our Christmas, this is our way of saying thanks.”

While the revelers feast, an accordion player will travel through the crowd and the band Lost Touch from Sacramento area will also play.