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Santas arrival brings children to Chateau Elan
Kimberly Starrett, 10, of Winder gets a hug from Santa Claus at the annual Lighting of the Chateau carnival Friday afternoon in Braselton. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

The usual patrons at the Chateau Elan Winery and Resort are of the adult variety who are looking for a little relaxation and a good meal, but that was not the case on Friday.

Hundreds of children and their parents milled around the resort’s property, anxiously awaiting the arrival of a very special guest: Santa Claus.

"Mommy, mommy, I see him," said an excited Sam Applebaum as he stood in front of the chateau after spotting Santa in a horse-drawn carriage in the distance.

As has become an annual event, the Chateau Elan staff opened up the property to the little visitors and their families in honor of the Lighting of the Chateau.

Jim Applebaum and his wife, Stephanie, have been driving to the chateau in Braselton from Athens for the past four years, specifically to attend the lighting.

"It’s really a great tradition for us," said Jim Applebaum. "Sam really likes being able to run around and play, but Santa is really the big thing for him."

In addition to the arrival of Santa by carriage, complete with a butler dressed in a tuxedo, the event also featured a petting zoo, bounce houses and pony rides.

Children at the Lighting of the Chateau also got to enjoy listening to several holiday stories.

"I memorize some of the stories, but I prefer to bring in the big story books because the kids really like to see the pictures," said Julie Mayran, the event’s storyteller.

"I like to read ‘The Grinch Who Stole Christmas’ because that is an all-time favorite for everyone. And I also read ‘Polar Express’ because that story is really popular with this generation."

The Lighting of the Chateau marks the beginning of the holiday season at the winery and resort. After the twinkling lights were lit on the chateau’s exterior and surrounding property, spectators were treated to a brilliant fireworks display.

While the Lighting of the Chateau has become an annual tradition for many families, there also were some first-time visitors.

"(My wife Lisa and I) were thinking about staying at the chateau, so we were doing some research online and we came across this," said George Duncan of Cumming. "It seemed like something fun for the whole family, so we decided to come."