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Braselton resort lights up for holiday season
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Visitors gather Friday night at Château Élan to watch the lighting of the resort’s holiday decorations and enjoy the fireworks. - photo by KATIE DUNN
Friday’s brisk weather formed the perfect backdrop for the North Pole’s most famous resident to arrive at Château Elan.

Hundreds of bundled up parents and children rushed to the winery’s entrance as Santa Claus arrived by a horse-drawn sleigh, led by a tuxedo-clad butler.

The visit marked the beginning of the Lighting of the Château, an annual family event Château Elan holds to celebrate the advent of the holiday season, this year for the 20th time.

Meribelle Halsema, 6, and her brother, Mack, 2, both greeted Santa when he stepped from his sleigh, and their mother, Leigh, snapped a photograph.

Small groups of children rushed to Santa’s side, some seeking a hug, to chat or a picture to commemorate the meeting.

Meribelle said she thought “it was cool” to meet Santa, while her brother exclaimed, “He wasn’t grumpy.”

Their mother said the trio traveled from Johns Creek with her parents for the festivities. “We’re looking forward to just getting in the holiday spirit,” she said.

Christmas music greeted guests as they wandered across the Winery Lawn, participating in activities that included putt-putt golf, a climbing wall, petting zoo, pony rides and moonwalks. Story-telling, caroling and other holiday activities also were held.

The event was capped later in the evening with the château’s lighting and a fireworks display.

Early in the afternoon, Andres Rodriguez, 2, armed with a brush, contentedly groomed a pig perched in a pen at the petting zoo. His family is from Atlanta, and his mother, Milena Rodriguez, said it was their first time attending the event.

“We just wanted to check out the activities,” she said, adding that the music and fireworks were at the top of her must-see list.

Other families, such as the Streets from Buford, attend the festivities every year. Pamela Street and her daughter, Sammy, 7, and son, Jake, 9, stood watching the animals at the petting zoo before Santa Claus arrived.

“We come every year,” said Street. “I like the variety of activities, and it’s close to home.”

Jake said he enjoyed visiting with Santa each year, while Sammy said she was looking forward to “having fun with my family.”
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