By MARK MAYNARD
Welcome to Kentucky’s Favorite Christmas Town.
That should be Ashland’s slogan for November and December.
It doesn’t take a marketing genius to know what we do best around here. It’s as plain as the red nose on Rudolph’s face: It’s Christmas!
What other town our size — or a town almost any size — has what we have or does what we do around the holidays? I mean, seriously, let’s think about it for a minute.
We start Christmas as early as Walmart and Hobby Lobby — and I say good for us. It’s our Calling Card. Our Christmas Calling Card, if you will.
Doesn’t it make you feel good when city workers start stringing the lights downtown or the Paramount Arts Center puts up its tree on the outside of the marquee? You know Christmas is calling.
I know there’s all that hustle and bustle, that gift-buying, house-decorating, party planning and everything else that goes along with the busiest season of the year. But take a second to smell the poinsettias — Christmas is pretty cool around here.
And, on a personal note, I hope we never forget the real reason for the season — the birth of Jesus Christ. Remember, it’s not just about the gifts under the tree. There’s a lot more to Christmas than that.
It’s an uplifting season and it starts early in Our Town, our very own Christmas Town USA, earlier than most places.
On Monday, they flipped the switch for the Winter Wonderland of Lights that officially gets the festivities started.
We Townies tend to take for granted the spectacularness of the Winter Wonderland of Lights around Central Park. But it’s certainly a great marketing tool for our city. People come from miles around to see the light displays twinkling. While here, they find out a little about Ashland’s friendliness (hopefully anyway), our vast choices of eateries (yummy) and plenty of shopping opportunities (cha-ching go the cash registers).
On Tuesday comes the annual Christmas Parade, an event in and of itself. It takes a couple of hours to watch the entire parade and, if you’ve lived here long enough, then you probably have some connection to it — either as a longtime bystander or probably a participant in some form or fashion.
I’ve been at the Christmas Parade in ridiculously warm and ridiculously cold weather. It doesn’t matter, it’s part of the tradition.
Of course, there’s the Festival of Trees and Trains at the Paramount Arts Center. What says Christmas more than Christmas trees? It’s another event we locals take for granted, but the grandness of it shouldn’t be underestimated. First-time viewers are overwhelmed and it’s one of the most amazing displays you’ll see during the holidays anywhere.
But the PAC doesn’t stop there. After the Trees and Trains are plenty of other Christmas goodies in the forms of shows and concerts.
And here’s a shameless plug: Unity Baptist Church, where I attend, has been putting on the “Living Christmas Tree” for more than 25 years. Where else can you go and see a 40-foot Christmas tree loaded with 30,000 sychronized lights and singers? Ashland has one.
You’ve got to love our Christmas spirit. Not in the mood for the holidays? Just come and pay Ashland a visit, shop in our stores, take a leisurely stroll (or ride) around the park and sip on a hot chocolate, or lose yourself in the seemingly never-ending Christmas parade. It’ll melt the heart of any Scrooge.
“Bah! Humbug?” Not around here. It’s not allowed. Not in Christmas Town USA.
Shout it from the rooftops — just don’t nudge Santa from his perch — Ashland is Kentucky’s Favorite Christmas Town.
That’s us. Come and visit. You’ll be glad you did.
Ho! Ho! Ho!
MARK MAYNARD can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2648.