Complete with a visit from Santa, time spent with family, and a hearty meal, it was enough to warm the hearts and brighten the spirits of many.

Without question, the holiday dinner held on Sunday at the Aquashicola Fire Company for veterans, the elderly and special needs families who reside in the Palmerton Area School District helped set the tone for the holiday season.

The event, sponsored by the Carbon Mountaineers Marine Corps League 996, marked the 20th year for the dinner, according to Nick Hawkey, commandment.

In all, about 150 people turned out for the event, Hawkey said.

Harold and Emma Bartholomew, Palmerton, were among them.

The couple said they make it a point to attend the function because they enjoy the entertainment.

"It's nice," said Emma, 79.

Harold, 82, added, "We come every year."

But, by far, the biggest draw was an appearance by Santa, who took time to meet with each child as they gave him their toy wish lists.

It was an opportunity Wyatt Rondeau, of Pottsville, wasn't about to pass up.

Accompanied by his father, George Rondeau, Wyatt, 5, summed up his visit with Santa in one word: "Awesome."

In addition, families with children up to age 18 also had the opportunity to register for toys at the dinner through the Blue Ridge Food and Toy Drive.

Brian and Heather Scheirer of Palmerton said they were grateful for the event.

"It's fun, and it's great for the kids," said Brian. "We'd like to thank the Marines for everything they've done for the children, and for us."

The couple's daughter, Haley Scheirer, was all smiles after she received a Tic Tac Toe Snowman game from Santa.

"I liked it," said Haley, 8. "I asked (Santa) for books."

Hawkey said he was pleased with the turnout.

"It's grown," Hawkey said. "It's a vehicle for us to register the families for toys."

Hawkey also praised the Dream Kids, who provided entertainment; the Blue Mountain Kodas Motorcycle Club, who help with toy delivery and pick-up; and Ana Marie Melo, whom he said provided for and cooked the food for the dinner.