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Lighting to spark holidays

LAWRENCEVILLE - A towering 35-foot Fraser Fir wrapped donated by Mayor Bobby Sikes in thousands of twinkling lights will be the centerpiece of the 18th annual tree lighting celebration held at the Gwinnett Historic Courthouse.

The enormous fir tree has been growing in the mayor's yard since the 1980s when his wife, who passed away in 1997, planted it.

"(The county) buys (a Christmas tree) every year and they give a lot of money for it," Sikes said. "I figured it would be something to do to make everyone happy and for them to not spend the money. I hope everybody enjoys it."

The lighting ceremony, hosted by Randy Travis of Fox 5 News, begins at 6 p.m. and Santa will ride in by horse and carriage at 6:45 p.m. Greeting Santa at the courthouse will be Erina Patterson, Miss Gwinnett County, and Rachel Grap, Miss Gwinnett County's Outstanding Teen.

Festivities begin at 5 p.m. and include live entertainment, horse-drawn carriages, self-guided tours of the courthouse, an elaborate miniature Christmas snow village and a festival of trees.

The courthouse itself will have its halls decked with lights and traditional Christmas decorations.

After Thanksgiving the courthouse will be open to the public every weekend from Nov. 25 to Dec. 18 from 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. for self-guided tours and visits with Santa. Photos cost $4 and carriage rides cost $5 for adults and $3 for children under 12 if accompanied by an adult.