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Carnival at Christmas

Morrow brings gift of fun at holiday celebration

Jonesboro sisters Taniyah Wiggins (left) and Imani Bentley enjoy a children’s ride at Morrow’s “Christmas in the Park” celebration Saturday. This marked the first time the event has included a carnival for the community.

Jonesboro sisters Taniyah Wiggins (left) and Imani Bentley enjoy a children’s ride at Morrow’s “Christmas in the Park” celebration Saturday. This marked the first time the event has included a carnival for the community.

— Words couldn’t describe how much Morrow youth Jimmy Larson enjoyed the city’s annual “Christmas in the Park” celebration Saturday.

Larson and his family — mother Tracy, father Keith and sisters Emily and Julia Gawel — came to the event to enjoy the carnival that was added this year. They rode many of the rides, saw the Chick-fil-A Santa Cow and witnessed the lighting of Morrow’s Christmas tree.

In the middle of the festivities, Keith Larson put his son on his shoulders and asked how he was doing.

“Hey buddy, are you enjoying yourself today?” said the father to the son.

Jimmy Larson just broke out a big smile and nodded his head.

photo

Curt Yeomans

People line up to ride the ferris wheel at Morrow’s “Christmas in the Park” event at the Morrow Center Saturday. Organizers said more than 3,000 visitors attended the event.

photo

Curt Yeomans

Morrow native Miranda Davis sings “O Holy Night” for the lighting of the city’s Christmas tree during its “Christmas in the Park” celebration Saturday. Officials turned on the tree’s lights when Davis reached the song’s climactic ending.

photo

Curt Yeomans

Morrow youth Julia Gawel covers her ears to block out the sounds of honking horns on a children’s motorcycle ride at the city’s “Christmas in the Park” celebration Saturday.

photo

Curt Yeomans

Morrow youngster Mariah Williams reaches out to the Chick-fil-A Santa Cow during Morrow’s “Christmas in the Park” celebration at the Morrow Center Saturday.

Morrow officials said about 3,200 people attended “Christmas in the Park” this year. The annual celebration was blessed with blue skies and temperatures in the 60s, which mayor Joseph “J.B.” Burke said was a factor in the large turnout.

“The weather could not have been better and everybody is just excited to be here,” Burke said. “The carnival aspect made it an even bigger success.”

The celebration came at a good time for Morrow, which has made headlines in recent weeks for infighting between its leaders and for spending thousands of dollars to bring in a special attorney to investigate allegations of state Sunshine Law violations by the City Council.

Residents said it was nice to see something different — something positive — happening in the city over the weekend.

“I think it’s a real nice way to use our money,” Tracy Larson said.

There was a little bit of everything at “Christmas in the Park” to satisfy a wide range of interests. In addition to the carnival, community groups sold a wide range of wares, the city had its “Little General” train ride, Waffle House and Chick-fil-A partnered for waffle dinners with the Chick-fil-A Santa Cow, singers sang for the crowds and Burke lit the city’s Christmas tree.

“I liked the train because it was good,” said Morrow youngster Mariah Williams, after she high-fived the Santa Cow.

After Jonesboro kindergartner Imani Bentley and her younger sister Taniyah Wiggins got off a children’s ride at the carnival, Bentley enthusiastically gave a thumbs up to signal her approval of the event.

“I think it’s great because they have something for everybody,” she said.

And, there was even a little something for the adults who were still kids at heart in their own way. About 75 cars and tow trucks, from as far away as Blairsville, also rolled in for a car show and Toys for Tots fundraiser.

“We brought in a record number of toys, which was about enough to fill a trailer,” said Morrow resident Sam Juarez, who organized the car show. Atlanta-based South Metro Towing alone brought in more than $1,000 worth of toys, which was more than any other car show participant, according to Juarez. South Metro Towing owner Greg Greeson said the company had full-time and part-time employees, as well as companies it works with, donate toys over the last few weeks.

“We’d been seeing on the news where there was a shortage of toys for Toys for Tots so we wanted to do whatever we could to help,” Greeson said.

Greeson and his wife, Ronnette, added the company already plans to outdo itself next year.

“The great thing is that we have a whole year to collect toys,” Ronnette Greeson said.

Juarez said he expects the event to grow next year by drawing participants from farther distances.

“It’s going to be even bigger next year, because I’m already hearing from people from as far away as Tennessee and Alabama who want to be a part of next year’s car show,” Juarez said.