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Storybook Land ushered in the holiday season by welcoming Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus to the park with its annual “Christmas Fantasy with Lights Parade” on Saturday evening.

The Fricano family opened Storybook Land in 1955, and it wasn’t until its 25th birthday that the family began the parade and park lighting ceremony. “This is a wonderful time of year for our family,” said Joanne “Mikey” Fricano. “It’s a tradition for many families, and it’s very heart-warming to us.”

The parade opened with the Fralinger String Band, gearing up the crowds as they strutted along to the familiar sights and sounds of the famous Mummers. Children and adults alike clapped and cheered as their favorite storybook characters waved to the crowds as they rolled along in decorative floats.

Wendy Housand, of Egg Harbor Township, rode the Cinderella float, playing the part of the Fairy Godmother. “I’ve been doing this forever,” said Housand of her role. “Probably 15 years, now. I love this place. The Fricano family is fantastic! They do everything for everybody.”

Immediately following the parade, Santa Claus climbed to the chimney atop his workshop, waved his magic wand and lit up more than a million lights throughout the park, much to the delight of the hundreds of children below.

“This is the best time of year for us,” said park manager Jessica Fricano. “The parade draws people from all over, and the little ones love to see the park light up before their eyes. We have lots of families coming down from North Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York. It’s a family tradition for them. I just spoke to a family who told me this is their sixth straight year attending the parade. We love it!”

Storybook Land has grown quite a bit over the years, and so have the families who visit the park. “I was here when I was little,” said Randy Sparks of Pittsgrove, “but it’s been many years since then. Now we’re back with my 3-year-old niece, Natalia, and it’s great!”

Eight-year-old Miranda Booskos of Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania concurred. “This is my second time here and it’s one of my favorite places, ever! I’m coming back.”

Although the parade happens just once a year, Santa will be in his home for visits and will continue lighting the park with his magic wand until Dec. 23 at Storybook Land, 6415 Black Horse Pike, Egg Harbor Township.

For more information, call (609) 641-7847 or visit them at www.StorybookLand.com.

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