What was that moment for you? That time when you could feel the magic of the holiday season so vividly you could almost grab it, and your heart swelled with an overwhelming sense of good in the world.

Through a child’s eyes, this is Snowflake Castle.

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Thousands of twinkling lights and festive decorations set the stage as kids approach Everal Barn and Homestead at Heritage Park during the first week of December.

“It is an event unlike any other, where kids get to be completely engulfed and interact with the exhibits, Santa and his elves,” said Westerville Senior Center Program Supervisor Christopher Shirring.

Now in it’s 30th year, Snowflake Castle is going above and beyond to create a magical experience for more than 5,000 visitors.

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One first-time visitor was three year-old Nico Biancone. This was a special day for Nico’s Grandma Cathy. Nico’s mother came to Snowflake Castle 27 years ago when she was just three years-old too.

“My daughter went to Snowflake Castle with a friend and talked about it for days. She loved it,” said Cathy Biancone. “And now so many years later, I am able to take my grandson. It is neat that this holiday tradition can be passed down to the next generation.”

Nico and his friend, Kayla Zuk, checked out the trains, gift shop and face painting before heading up to the big attraction: Santa’s Workshop.

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Little ones make and paint their own wooden toy with Santa’s elves. The new star this year was the tanker train toy.

“Where else do kids get to use power tools and hammers with Santa’s elves?” said Shirring. “They get so excited to say they actually made a toy and then get to take it home. It is a source of pride for them. I still have my toy from a similar program when I was young.”

The production of Snowflake Castle doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a considerable amount preparation and time, especially the wooden toys.

“We have a team of nine helpers that begin cutting the toys in April. It takes them about six months and 9,000 cuts to get everything ready,” said Shirring.

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As a fundraiser for the Westerville Senior Association, the event is heavily staffed by volunteers among their membership.

“This a great way to showcase the talents of our membership, and it gives them an opportunity to engage the community while having a positive impact on a new generation,” said Shirring.

Kayla even asked to come back this year to see the elves.

“She loved making the toy and still has the one she made last year,” said Kayla’s mother, Ana Zuk. “The senior volunteers are really wonderful with the kids; it is great to see them involved.”

After toys are assembled, Nico and Kayla have a chance to fully soak in Santa’s workshop, even the falling snow.

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It is now time to see the Mr. and Mrs. Claus. Kids get an inside look into the toy operation, including Santa’s sleigh as they head into the Homestead.

“The $5 ticket includes a picture with Santa and Mrs. Claus. And since some kids, even my daughter, are a little afraid of Santa, Mrs. Claus helps put them at ease,” said Shirring.

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Long after Snowflake Castle ends, the magic of this Westerville Winter Wonderland carries with many of the children who experience it.

“There are a lot of kids that believe Santa lives at Everal Barn. One of our employees’ daughter points it out everytime they drive by,” said Shirring.

Snowflake Castle is sold out this year. But you can check out the 2015 dates at the City Events Calendar here – http://goo.gl/Z0gJj9. And tell us what you think makes Snowflake Castle so special by commenting on this post!