merry-marietta-christmas

As a child, Katie Peterson would mark the beginning of the Christmas season with the arrival of Santa Claus on the Marietta Square.

When you need a little Christmas, Marietta knows how to deliver, from the Thanksgiving Gobble Jog, the perfect way to begin the season of giving, to the tinsel and treasure of the Marietta Pilgrimage Christmas Tour of Homes.

Like so many Cobb County natives and new residents alike, Peterson, the newly appointed director of the Marietta Visitors Bureau, can’t wait for the traditions to come back in 2013, especially in a city rife with history. Here are just a few of the events she is looking forward to this year.

 

Giving Thanks

In Cobb County, Thanksgiving isn’t about spending the day in the kitchen. On a day set aside for family, fun and a heart full of thanks, the feast can wait until later in the day. Instead, thousands of Mariettans begin the day with an event that celebrates not only what you have to be thankful for, but helps those less fortunate. In its 11th year, the Gobble Jog has become not only a family festivity, but a tradition in the heart of Cobb County.

“The story goes that a lot of people were very skeptical” that first year, Kaye Cagle says of when volunteers decided that a Thanksgiving Day race would be a fun fundraiser for MUST Ministries, an organization that helps thousands of families with needs from shelter to clothing to food. “No one will come. Everybody is busy,” the non-profit’s marketing director recounted of the worries from the first holiday plan. “People go out of town; people are cooking.”

Instead, though, the ministry found people were thankful for the opportunity to give back and get into the spirit with their families alongside them. That first holiday in 2003, 1,400 runners came to the Marietta Square, and the organization raised $29,000.

After more than a decade of tradition, MUST Ministries expects nearly 10 times that number this year, when the event joins with other Thanksgiving Day races across the country in an attempt to beat the Guinness Book of World Records record of people participating in races at multi-venue events.

And it isn’t just the runners who come out for some fun, Cagle says. People like to line the race route or watch from the historic homes along the Square. One man even makes a tradition of playing the tuba for the runners. “It’s just so much fun,” Cagle says. “It’s about really being thankful, and they are helping people in need.”

With about $400,000 in revenues expected, the fundraiser is the biggest of the year for MUST Ministries, although that is only a fraction of the $5 million needed to provide services for 34,000 people a year. Even the lowest level of registration, an early-bird special of $15, is enough to feed a child for 10 days through MUST Ministries’ summer lunch program. “It’s certainly a tremendous boost for us,” Cagle says.

With offerings for the entire family and for any level of runner, including a Tot Trot for kids as young as 5, see gobblejog.org for race start times and registration information.

 

Historical Holiday Tour

After Santa’s arrival in the square on Dec. 5, when the city is draped in the green and red and the Christmas trees are twinkling, the annual Marietta Pilgrimage Christmas Home Tour begins with a glamorous, black-tie gala on Friday, Dec. 6, and tours for the following two days.

This year, the 27th for the tour, the pilgrimage features six homes in the Northwest Marietta/Kennesaw Avenue historic district. The oldest is the Malone-Harrison Hines House, built in about 1885 on Kennesaw Avenue, and the youngest is the Cole-Piotrowski House, a 1942 abode on Cleburne Avenue. Also along the route are public venues such as Brumby Hall and Gardens, the Marietta-Cobb Museum of Art and three churches: First Presbyterian Church, Old Zion Baptist Church and St. James Episcopal Church.

The Pilgrimage can be viewed during the day, or enjoyed by candlelight. Advance tickets begin at $15 for a candlelight tour of three homes, $20 for the day tour, which includes a shuttle and $25 for a combination ticket. The price of each rises by $5 at the door.

For more information on the Marietta Christmas Home Tour and other holiday activities, visit mariettapilgrimage.com or call the Marietta Visitors Bureau at (770) 429-1115 or (800) 835-0445.

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