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SUWANEE -- On Saturday night, thousands of friends, families, couples and even a few pooches came out to Christmas in the Park at Suwanee's Town Center Park, which was hosted by Shadowbrook Baptist Church. The church created this event four years ago to show gratitude toward Suwanee and its residents.
"We've got a great city here. This is our way of saying 'thank you' to the community," Senior Pastor Bobby Linkous said. "We love watching the kids and seeing their faces (during the activities) -- its priceless at that point."
Christmas in the Park was free to the public; they only asked attendees to bring canned goods to donate. With the low price tag, there were many new faces at the event, including Aaron and Lesley Andrews of Suwanee. They brought their two daughters for a night of fun.
"One of my daughter's best friends had been before and she said there were a lot of activities and free hot cocoa -- which, of course, is a large draw -- she said she had a blast this year. And they love Christmas," Lesley Andrews said.
Aaron Andrews added, "And we like to be frozen."
The church set up 11 Charles Dickens themed houses with different activities inside. Children could join a Nativity play at the Starry Night Theater, ride the Christmas train at the Suwanee Station, write letters to Santa at the post office and write letters to soldiers overseas.
"We write letters to soldiers every year and we send those to them with a care package," Linkous said. "We do hear back from many of the soldiers and it's been great."
Shadowbrook provided refreshments for attendees to stay warm in a massive tent. They stocked up on hot chocolate and cookies for several thousand people between both days, but this year was larger than the last.
"We're about to run out of hot cocoa. The best way to find out how many people are here is by counting how many cups we go through," Linkous said. "It's been a big success. Each year it grows a little bit more because people find out about it. Some people have told me its become their Christmas family tradition."
The group ran out of hot chocolate before the night was over.
For more information about Shadowbrook Baptist church, visit www.shadowbrookchurch.org.