Holiday decorations are planned well in advance by casino employees |

Holiday decorations are planned well in advance by casino employees

Emily Aughinbaugh, Tribune staff writer

Although Stateline’s casino corridor lights up just weeks before Christmas, casino employees start planning and installing festive decorations months before the holiday season.

Phil Gielow, chief engineer of facilities at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe, has been overseeing the casino’s elaborate trimmings for 20 years.

Gielow said he and a group of six men start planning and hanging the lights, garland, wreaths and ornaments in October.

Many large decorations have been made by employees, according to Gielow, and every season new garnishes are added to the holiday mix.

This year, Gielow said more twinkling lights and wreaths adorn the valet area, which he thinks is the most appealing side of the building.

“We’re concentrating on the area where the guests come in,” Gielow said. “It’s very welcoming to people.”

John Packer, Harrah’s director of communications, said all the casino’s indoor and outdoor decorations seem to get bigger and better every season.

“There’s a little friendly competition (between the casinos),” Packer said. “Every year it gets a little merrier and brighter.”

Despite the equally grand trimmings that dress other Stateline casinos, Packer and Gielow remain loyal to Harrah’s.

“We try to think our (decorations) look the best,” Gielow said; and Harrah’s patrons agree with him.

“People really do like (the decorations),” Packer said. “We put up more and more every year, and they look great inside and out.”

All of Harrah’s twinkling lights shining from mid-December to after New Year’s come with a cost.

Gielow said electric bills increase about 3 percent during the season for giving, which is the hotel’s busiest time of year.

Packer said occupancy will go from 40 to 50 percent the week before Dec. 25 to 100 percent on Christmas Day through New Year’s Day.

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