LAWRENCEVILLE - As the Class Act Band sang "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," Ron Rigdon held his granddaughter and danced next to the 35-foot Norway Spruce lit moments earlier on the Lawrenceville square.
Rigdon, who owns a home and a business in Gwinnett's county seat, said it's a Thanksgiving tradition for his family to attend the Lighting of the Tree in downtown Lawrenceville.
Hundreds of people packed the Gwinnett Historic Courthouse lawn for the 21st annual event, which included self-guided tours of the historic building and carriage rides.
"The big thing the kids look forward to is Santa's arrival," Rigdon said. "That gets them in the mood for Christmas."
Beth McWilliams, Gwinnett County Parks and Recreation's program supervisor for the Gwinnett Historic Courthouse, said it took about a month to prepare for Thursday evening's event.
"To see all the patrons coming out and all the citizens out here, it makes it all worth it," she said.
Cameron Barns, 9, attended the tree lighting for the first time Thursday. His mother promised to bring him after seeing a sign advertising the ceremony.
"I'm looking forward to seeing the Christmas tree," he said. "It's really beautiful out here. I like the place. It's very nice."
Mark and Danette Burson have attended the event since its inception. Mark's mother, historian Mavis Burson, helps decorate Lawrenceville's square and City Hall.
"It's a traditional thing for us," Danette Burson said. "We're Lawrenceville people. This is what we do. We have Thanksgiving dinner during the day ... and we come here at night."
Holiday activities at the Gwinnett Historic Courthouse will continue in December.
Visits with Santa and children's crafts are scheduled from 4:30 to 8 p.m. Dec. 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20 and 21. Photos with Santa cost $5 each, and the crafts cost $1 each.
Carriage rides will take place from 5 to 8 p.m. Dec. 6, 13 and 20. The cost is $5 for adults and $3 for children 12 and under.