Five of Cherokee County's cities have Christmas events planned with the hopes of keeping residents close to home.
The City of Holly Springs will present its sixth annual Christmas Parade at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.
The parade will travel on Holly Springs Parkway from Harbor Creek Parkway to the Community Center on Hickory Road.
After a parade, a tree lighting ceremony will take place at the Holly Springs Community Center at the historic depot on Hickory Road. The Holly Springs Elementary School chorus will perform, and there will be photos with Santa until 6 p.m. and hot cocoa and coffee.
City Clerk Karen Norred said the city government is also offering a children's coloring contest this year. The winner of the contest will receive a gift certificate.
Ms. Norred said the parade and festivities, which are free, are expected to draw between 2,000 and 3,000 people. Last year, Ms. Norred said between 1,500 and 2,000 people came to the events.
"Every year it grows," she said. "It's a great community event."
The City of Woodstock is gearing up for its annual Christmas Jubilee and Parade of Lights.
The city's festivities will begin at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday in downtown. The parade route is along Main Street, beginning at the Highway 92 intersection and ending at Woodstock Elementary School on Rope Mill Road.
After the parade, a free festival at Woodstock City Park includes the opportunity to visit with Santa and see the city's Christmas tree and park and lighting, enjoy marshmallow roasts with s'mores and witness the recognition of the best parade floats and Preservation Woodstock's Citizen of the Year. Woodstock Elementary School's fourth-graders will serenade the crowd, and there will be other children's activities.
The city government will have Santa's Mailbox set up at the gazebo where children can drop off their letters to Kris Kringle from Saturday through Dec. 24. Each child will receive a letter back from Santa.
The city at the festival also will collect unwrapped toys and money for the Woodstock Jaycees' Christmas Assistance Program.
This year, the city is sponsoring its first Christmas decorating contest.
The contest is limited to residents and business inside the city limits, and nominations are due by noon on Dec. 10, said Marybeth Stockdale, the city's special events coordinator.
The five categories are: Christmas Elegance, Best Use of Lights, Best Use of Christmas Characters, Best Religious Display and Mayors Award. There also will be a Griswold Award for the house or business decorated in a way reminiscent of the movie, "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation."
Nomination forms are available on the city's parks and recreation department website at www.woodstockparksandrec.com.
Winners will receive a special plaque, and the judging will be conducted the week of Dec. 13.
Ms. Stockdale said the decorating contest is being held to "promote the holiday spirit and create a bit of competition" among residents and business owners.
"We want to try to make the city a destination" for Christmas, she added.
Santa Claus will be on hand in downtown Ball Ground on Friday to visit with children and families.
Santa will come to town in a parade through downtown starting at 6:30 p.m., and then will hear wish lists during a free festival at City Park on Gilmer Ferry Road.
The free event includes holiday music and refreshments including a marshmallow roast.
Karen Jordan, city clerk of Ball Ground, said several hundred folks usually turn out for Santa.
Canton residents have no shortage of Christmas activities planned for the holiday season.
The Canton Optimist Club will sponsor its 23rd annual Christmas parade at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 11, through downtown.
The parade line up will begin at noon behind the AutoZone on Waleska Street. It then will loop around downtown and feature marching bands, floats, cars and emergency vehicles and more. Parade entries still are being accepted.
Santa will be the gazebo at Cannon Park on the square from noon to 2 p.m. on Saturdays from this week through Dec. 18. Families can take photos with Santa and enjoy refreshments.
Waleska is planning to offer its residents a taste of Christmas on Friday.
The annual tree lighting ceremony is at 6 p.m. at Northside Pharmacy at 6824 Reinhardt College Parkway. There will be a visit from Santa and holiday music for residents to enjoy, said City Clerk Amy Abernathy.
This year, guests at Waleska's event also can support the American Cancer Society Cherokee County chapter's Love Lights a Tree.
Donations will be accepted to place ornaments on the tree in downtown Canton in honor of someone who is fighting cancer or who lost their battle with the disease.
Contributions will be accepted through Dec. 17. There are five levels of donations: Star at $1; Love Lighter for $5; Star Giver for $10; Candle for $20; and Angel for $50.
Mrs. Abernathy said the event usually attracts about 100 people.
"It's a tradition to come out to the tree lighting," she said.