The 14th Salaj Family Christmas Fairytale, with close to 2 million lights illuminating an estate of 60,000 square metres, started in Grabovnica near Cazma, 60 kilometres east of Zagreb, on Saturday.

The estate, located in Bjelovar-Bilogora County, this year is lit up by 400,000 lights more than last year. The event, to last until January 9, features stalls selling food and wine, a crafts fair, an exhibition of characters from fairytales and cartoons, an outdoor nativity scene, a fireworks display, 1,700 illuminated trees, and other novelties.

For the first time this year the event will feature presentations of tourism services in Bjelovar-Bilogora County.

Numerous reporters and travel agents from Croatia and abroad gathered on the Salaj family estate, including a dozen travel agents from Great Britain, who have already included the Salaj Family Christmas Fairytale in their travel packages, as well as travel agents from Slovenia, Italy, Austria, Hungary and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Also present were officials of the ministries of tourism and crafts and small enterprises, representatives of several embassies and sponsors

The county tourism board supported the event with around 45,000 kuna.

The owner of the estate, Zlatko Salaj, welcomed the visitors to the event.

"This is my childhood dream coming true, when I started it 14 years ago, I could not have imagined that it would attract so much interest and bring so much joy to visitors. That inspires me to continue working on it," said Salaj. It took him three months to stage this year's Salaj Family Christmas Fairytale.

Tourism Minister Darko Lorencin, who attended the opening ceremony, invited all to visit the Salaj family estate.

"This product too contributes to the development of the continental tourism, which is becoming increasingly important," Lorencin said.

As the number of lights and illuminated attractions on the estate increases every year, so does the number of visitors to the estate as well as the event's cost, which this year totals around half a million kuna.

The head of the Christmas Fairytale association, Ana Bertic, said that they covered the cost with earnings from entry tickets, the sale of souvenirs, food and wine and sponsor donations.

The Christmas Fairytale association, registered by the Salaj family, has ten members, two employees and five-six seasonal workers.

Bertic said that this year the family expected more than 100 buses with organised visitor groups and believed that the number of visitors would be 10% higher than last year, when 70,000 people visited the Christmas Fairytale event.

She added that next year the family planned to start building accommodation units on the estate, starting with two-three cabins for four-five persons, given the great interest among visitors.

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