Thanksgiving with Wes Winters: Celebrating the holiday the Vegas way

Most people in Las Vegas get used to the statement, “Today is my Friday,” as there is a large number of people working in the resort community with a shifted work week through traditional weekends and holidays. However, for some people working this Thanksgiving, the statement will be, “Today, this is my family.”

Wes Winters, a pianist who performs in his own style as well as the style of Liberace, feels that the holidays are an important time to celebrate and spend with family, friends and loved ones. On Thanksgiving and Christmas, it isn’t unusual for a parade of performers and other people who have to work part of the holidays to show up at his east valley home.

“Anyone who works here is kind of stuck on the holidays,” Winters said. “If I don’t have a job that day, I’ll entertain and have people over. A lot of times, it’s people like myself who don’t have a family here and have to work.”

Winters hasn’t been back to his native Kansas City, Kan., since he came to the valley 12 years ago, although last year, his family came here for the holiday. Most years, he opens his house to some select friends, and although there is a big sit-down dinner in the mid-afternoon, people arrive when they can based on their schedules.

“We can always heat something up,” Winters said. “There’s always a giant table of food, and my friends can come in and have a Thanksgiving meal. It’s homey, and it makes you feel like there’s a holiday at least.”

Winters used to cook everything himself, but that got to be too large a task, so in recent years, it has become more of a potluck affair. He still cooks some of his traditional family favorites, but part of the fun of the event is seeing other people’s family specialties.

“For me, there’s always got to be a turkey and usually a ham,” Winters said. “If people want other specific things, they bring them.”

Because many of Winter’s guests are musicians and performers, it’s not unusual for an impromptu concert to break out.

“There’s always a few people who want to play,” said Winters’ manager Rod Russell. “They have an appreciative audience, and there are a few pianos at the house — why not?”

Movies are usually part of the festivities, helping to set the mood, entertain and keep the spirit of the event light and upbeat.

“We usually watch movies that are stupid or funny so everyone stays in a good mood,” Winters said. “You can get melancholy during the holidays anyway, and I always have. It can be especially bad when you’re away from your relatives and family.”

Thanksgiving is usually an all-day affair for Winters, one he enjoys and looks forward to.

“There have been times when the last person leaves at about 1 in the morning,” Winters said. “It’s a long day, but it’s fun. You put movies on, people play music, and you laugh a lot. It’s a family feeling sort of thing.”

— To reach East Valley View reporter F. Andrew Taylor, email or call 702-380-4532.

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