Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

November 19, 2013

Ceremony ignites Christmas season in Central Park

Lana Bellamy
CNHI News Service

ASHLAND — Bright lights flooded the landscape of Central Park Monday night as the Winter Wonderland of Lights festival princesses flipped the switch to ignite Christmas-themed fixtures.

The display will stay ablaze for five weeks of the holiday season. It has around 800,000 lights on 50 display sets spread across 52 acres of the park.

Both old and young came to the show that included live instrumental music, choir performances and a visit from Santa Claus to cap off the night.

Candy and Bryan Colyer, and their daughter Elizabeth, have made the Winter Wonderland of Lights celebration a 10-year family tradition. This year, they also brought along their niece and nephew.

The Colyer’s were initially invited to the celebration by fellow church members when they moved to Ashland in 2004 and have been hooked ever since.

When Candy was asked what keeps them coming back, she said, “For me, it’s just the feeling of community. This town is like a big family.”

“She kind of roped me into it,” Bryan said. “No, I’m kidding. I like to come see all the lights kick on.”

Candy said they use the celebration as the start of the holiday season in their home.

“This is when we know to take out all the Christmas shirts and gloves and our daughter loves the cookies and hot chocolate,” she said.

As they talked, their nephew, Gary Hanauer, 7, danced and rang bells as the choir sang a Christmas carol.

“The bells are my favorite,” he said, referring to the complementary jingle bells given out by Citizens Bank.

Marion Russell, City of Ashland Public Works Director and Winter Wonderland chairman, said they have tried to grow the festival since he joined the committee in 1999.

His personal enjoyment in the Christmas holiday inspired him to get involved in the festival.

“I’ve always kind of been a kid at heart,” he said. “Even as an old guy, I like Christmas and I like doing things that involve Christmas.”

As part of the five-week festival, there is also a karaoke competition, the annual city parade on Nov. 26, a home and business decorating contest and more.

For more information on upcoming Winter Wonderland events and the Central Park lighting, visit winterwonderlandoflights.com

LANA BELLAMY can be reached at lbellamy@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2653.