Carson Nugget Celebrates 50th Free Thanksgiving

Chefs and staff at the Carson Nugget have been cooking and baking all week as they prepare to treat more than 3,500 casino customers and anyone who's hungry to a free Thanksgiving dinner.

The tradition started in 1957, when Howard and Hop Adams opened the downtown Carson Street casino.

"Legend has it, a couple with two young children came into the coffee shop and didn't have any money. It was Thanksgiving," said Kelly Brant, marketing director at the Nugget.

"The folks working decided they wouldn't go hungry that day - and the rest, well ..."

Nugget Sous Chef Sal Bracamontes said every year helping feed those who wouldn't normally have a warm meal is rewarding - but this year may be special, and not just because of the tradition's 50th anniversary.

"You look out there and you know people are in need," he said.

"It's been a particularly rough year for a lot of people. People have lost jobs, lost their homes. Things are slow, real slow."

"I know we're going to get a lot of people in here that really will be thankful - that really could use something to be thankful for."

Bracamontes has been in full prep mode since early Monday.

Supervising a crew of four carvers, he has been cooking turkeys, 24
at a time, in the restaurant's rotisserie.

Other chores: Preparing 600 pounds each of ham, yams and mashed
potatoes; 60 gallons of gravy and 240 pumpkin pies.

"Fortunately, 60 to 70 percent of my staff has been here 10 years or more," Bracamontes said.

"So, it's like clockwork. We know what to do and when we need to do it, but there's not much time to spare."

But the hectic preparation is well worth the effort, he said.

"If just one person comes in here Thursday, hungry, and gets a good meal and feels a little bit better about things, then all this is worth it," Bracamontes said.