Snow Angel flies at Stone Mountain Christmas

Small wonder. She of the blond tresses and billowing white gown, who flies high across Crossroads, Stone Mountain's winter wonderland, is an ethereal creature blessed with magical powers.

Magic? What else can you call it when Snow Angel, flying 45 feet off the ground and more than 450 feet between building tops, causes snow to waft down upon ooh-ing and ahh-ing crowds with the wave of her white wand on 60 degree Atlanta evenings?

Stone Mountain has long been a competitor for the Christmas entertainment dollars of Atlantans and out-of-towners, especially since Herschend Family Entertainment took over the celebrations nine years ago. This year's edition delivers the biggest sleigh of cheer yet.

The spotlight is on Snow Angel, who debuted in a production of "Go Tell It on the Mountain" in 2002 and commanded increasingly bigger Christmas exposure every year until last, when she took wing for the first time. That won her a few shaky-camera YouTube postings. This year, posters of her porcelain face are plastered all over metro Kroger stores (a park sponsor).

But Snow Angel isn't the only bright light of Stone Mountain Christmas. There are 2 million of them, lining seemingly everything in Crossroads.

And there are two new holiday musical revues this year. "Simply Christmas" features soulful singing and smooth (sometimes high-kicking) moves by an eight-member cast with Pepsodent smiles, built around chestnuts such as "Merry Christmas, Darling." It's medley mania: You hear parts of 23 songs in a breathless 25 minutes.

"Sleigh Ride," features four elves who help Santa navigate the globe while singing songs related his exotic stops. It's cute and corny.

Pressing hard to please, both revues feel like they might have escaped from Dollywood or Silver Dollar City, other parks run by Herschend.

Also new this year, is "Hilda the Christmas Goat," an animated character on a large flat-screen monitor, that interacts with the audience in real time. A character out of the "Cole Family Christmas" books, Hilda can play off the audience as they watch her.

On the other end of the technology spectrum is the enduringly popular Sing-Along Christmas Train. There wasn't much singing along on our five-mile circle around the mountain, but the yule soundtrack was swell anyway. The choo-choo stops near the end of the ride for "The Gift," a monologue about Jesus' birth performed by "Grandma" from a track-side frontier town.

We were lucky to be able to walk right up and jump on the train, for which the wait can be as much as an hour some nights. Our fortune wasn't as good for the much-anticipated visit with Santa. As we darted among shows, the train and the Christmas Lasershow, the line for Santa grew impossibly long.

My son's disappointment was offset by our visit to the Snow Angel Castle. While waiting for his audience with Her Loveliness on her ginormous silver throne, he filled out a form letter to Santa, noting that he'd like a puppy for Christmas.

It didn't spoil the magic to find out that, in real life, Snow Angel is a school teacher at Salem High School in Conyers named Lenae Rose (and that she splits the role with another actress, Erin Bushko). "I love Christmas," exclaimed Rose. "It's my favorite time of year and always has been."

Later, at evening's end, fighting tired feet and Christmas celebration fatigue, we watched Snow Angel spread more cheer from on high, leading the crowd in the repeated chant to "Let it snow!"

Yet when the frozen stuff started falling and Snow Angel zipped overhead, 8-year-old Abagayle Waters of Flowery Branch opined: "You can tell she's fake because of the [wires] on her." Sister Courtney Waters, 10, was equally dubious about the authenticity of the wafting white stuff.

Their more charitable grandmother, Martha Waters, got in the final word: "Grandma says it's spectacular. And I hope they're paying Snow Angel well."

Stone Mountain Christmas

Open Fridays (except Nov. 20), Saturdays and Sundays, as well as most weeknights on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's weeks, through Dec. 30 (closed Dec. 24-25). $26 adults, $21 ages 3-11 ($4 off when you purchase at Kroger locations). Christmas Family Value Pass for four (including four meals and hot chocolate), $109. U.S. 78, Stone Mountain. 770-498-5690, www.stonemountainpark.com.

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