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County department holds annual holiday festival

By Valerie Baldowski

vbaldowski@henryherald.com

The Henry County Parks and Recreation Department will brighten the holidays for many, with the sixth annual Heritage Christmas Festival.

The event is scheduled for Dec. 11, from 2 p.m., to 6 p.m., in Heritage Village, at Heritage Park in McDonough.

Ashleigh Roell, special events coordinator for the recreation department, said organizers of the event are asking area businesses and county departments to "adopt" an historical building in the village and decorate it for Christmas.

The holiday atmosphere of the decorated buildings is what will make the attraction so popular, said Tim Coley, Henry County parks and recreation department director.

"People are looking forward to coming down to Heritage Village, taking pictures, and seeing it decorated," said Coley. "We invite everybody to come out and celebrate the Christmas season."

The festival, including the special holiday lighting, is a team effort among all members of the parks and recreation department, he said. "We've got several thousand lights we put up."

A variety of holiday activities will include hayrides, arts and crafts, live entertainment, shopping, food, and children's games, said Roell. Radio Disney will be on hand from 2 p.m., to 3:30 p.m., to play the latest tunes. Attendees will also be treated to a musical puppet show and Christmas caroling, and Santa Claus will be on hand to delight the children, said the county special events coordinator.

Roell said photos with Santa will be available for purchase, however, parents are welcome to take their own photos as well. The photo opportunities are a big draw with children, said Coley. "There's usually a long line, a few hundred," he added.

Roell said there will be an additional attraction to this year's festival. "A new thing we're adding this year is a fun game for the kids called 'Elf School,'" she said. "The kids will do a relay race, where they're going to dress Santa, pull a sled, [run] a candy cone relay, and, then, at the end, they receive a diploma that they are now certified to be an elf."

Roell said she got the idea for "Elf School" when she was researching ideas for this year's holiday festival. "We found it just searching the web," she said. "I pulled some different ideas from different places, just trying to make it original."

Attendees at the festival will be encouraged to participate in signing Christmas cards and banners to be sent to U.S. troops. This year, organizers will also collect donations to fill "Hero Boxes" for several soldiers, said Roell.