Patricia Hicks is dressed-up in a glittery New Year’s commemorative headband, a festive circlet shimmering in the Winchester Avenue holiday lights. She welcomes 2013 with nearest and dearest.
Gala get-togethers mean a lot.
She walks outside First Baptist Church Christian Life Center in the 1600 block and looks to her son, Ethan Reeves, 12. The miracle millennium baby has a birthday nearing. Drawn against a rare heart condition doctors questioned his survival. With grace and scores of surgeries, he’s here with family, having a blast at the New Year’s Eve Party and Ball Drop Monday evening.
The 51-year-old Webbville mother counts her blessings.
“I just want to live for God,” said the faithful servant of Gregoryville Apostolic Truth Tabernacle, looking at Ethan, and her kids, Krista Payne, 9; and Kalah Wilburn, 21.
“We all need to help more and give more to our community,” adding she’s thankful for the free downtown mixer, an alcohol-free shindig ideal for families.
Wilburn is joined on the sidewalk by her husband, Shawn, 22. She tugs at her pants showing off her diet is working. The young woman is losing weight in 2013.
“Gotta be healthier and eat more veggies and fruit,” she chuckles, yanking her waistband. “Feel my clothes getting looser already.”
Joyful music reverberates from the church gym, the classic rock, live sounds of Outrider, a trio of local pediatrician Dr. Ish Stevens Jr., Jesse Waddell and Justin Butler. Rob McNurlin of Last of the Beatnik Cowboys takes the stage to ring in the New Year with melody. Tots crowd Peanuts The Clown who concocts colorful creatures from twisty balloons.
Even with wintry mix of snow and ice trickling around the glistening New Year’s orb dangling overtop Judd Plaza, close to 400 merrymakers raised the roof, said Sue Dowdy, director of the Ashland Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
She waits on folks at the First Baptist entryway – distributing raffle and refreshment tickets. Her golden champagne glass accessories shine as brightly as the faces of children who run around the bleachers, eat hot dogs, and raise a ruckus with shrill party horns.
It’s a 20-year tradition, a favor hosted and sponsored by the city of Ashland’s recreation department and Ashland Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Amber Clevenstine and Linda VanHorn, both 30, are old acquaintances from schooldays together – never forgotten. The Greenup women have a ball watching their kids fool around on the musical wall at the Highlands Museum & Discovery Center. It’s important their five Argillite Elementary students grow up together – just as they did as girls.
“It’s my resolution to get in touch with old friends – and stay close to friends who mean so much,” paused VanHorn, seeing their youngsters vie in a corn hole match.
Their pal, Charles Corbin, 33, is appreciative of efforts to make revelry child-friendly. He remembers block parties in his youth, painting downtown red with DJ music and pizza.
“This keeps kids off the street and gives them something to do rather than get into trouble on New Year’s,” he said. “In a small town like Ashland it’s a really great thing they put this on for families.”
Volunteer Mike Mussetter agreed.
“It’s a small, wholesome way the city of Ashland gives back to the public,” said volunteer Mike Mussetter. “There’s always a good crowd – and we’re here until midnight with free food, music, and the kids can play.”