For the Independent
Thousands of festive folks turned out Tuesday evening for Ashland’s yearly Winter Wonderland of Lights Christmas Parade — and some tots even delivered wishes to the North Pole, skyward bound on a balloon.
Ava Wortman, 5, sat on a fountain near the Paramount Arts Center with her brother, Hudson, 3, and little sister, Raegan, 1. Fire sirens sounded nearby. Almost time. The exhilaration was too much — and she inadvertently freed a balloon from her tiny hand.
Harnessed by helium, her balloon soared over Winchester Avenue and blonde Ava, bundled up in gray pea coat, puckered up. The Bridgeport, W.Va., girl soon realized Santa might collect her wish this unforeseen way — visions of an American Girl doll on wing to a snowy land.
Hopping in excitement as the lineup of beauty queens and bands neared, her baby brother Hudson released his balloon, too. Maybe a truck on Christmas morn for this youngster…
Pleasant weather brought out holiday happiness for families who packed the avenues. Bill Jackson, founding member of Boyd County Ambulance Service, marshaled in the holiday season officially.
It’s customary for Karlee Pierce, 9, to join her family on the route and drive Central Park’s perimeter, loving the LED lights. This is the holiday kickoff.
The Ashland girl — who hopes for an iPod and Monster High doll this yuletide — has one item on her list to Santa: help her brother, Brad Pierce, 17, find stardom as a singer.
“That’s what I really want this year,” the Hager Elementary student giggled.
The Ashland Christmas Parade is a downtown institution — always running the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Aaron McCoy and his wife, Jamie McCoy, both 33, come out without fail to laugh at the side-splitting El Hasa Shriner shtick and to see bygone friends. Yet, in all this cavalcade of clowns, thoughts turn to Thanksgiving.
“We’re gonna go to Mom and Dad’s for chicken and dumplings and mashed potatoes,” said Mrs. McCoy, of Ashland, looking over at her husband.
Betty Gehart, 48, skipped the Portsmouth parade to bring her granddaughter, Brooke Hall, to our town. They planned a walking trip over to Winter Wonderland of Lights to shoot Christmas pictures. The 8-year-old’s eyes lit up speaking of Christmas.
“You get presents. That’s my favorite part,” went on the sparkly-dressed girl, who admitted her real Christmas dream is a date with pop superstar Justin Bieber.
As soldiers marched by, Ryan and Audra Adkins, ages 31 and 27, leaned against a business. From Point Pleasant, they came to town to share the Thanksgiving feast and football with family. It’s their first time at the parade. Their toddler, Penny — a Honey Boo Boo lookalike — awaits the festivities in her stroller, sipping on a Starbucks strawberry beverage.
“She’s starting to understand all this,” said Mr. Adkins, colorful lights reflecting in the shop windows. “She knows Santa is coming soon. She calls him Santy Claus.”
Nearby, elfin Alyssa Rogers spins herself in circles.
“I like Christmas,” glows the 4-year-old, bright as a candle. Then she breaks into a “Deck the Halls” chorus. “Fa-fa-la-fa-la…”
“I want an Easy Bake Oven from Santa,” she interrupts the carol’s melody. “Because I like sugar cookies.”
Blake Johnson eyeballed the Kentucky State Police’s 1949 cruiser followed by their just-rolled-out Caprice. The 8-year-old — who hopes to be either a stunt driver or police officer when he grows up — ogled the antique car.
“This is the best part of the parade. That car is so old-fashioned,” gaped the Westwood boy, who slipped on a pair of fake spectacles and is a double for Ralphie in the cult classic comedy, “A Christmas Story.”
He follows the (red as Rudolph) Fairview Eagles undefeated football team.
“They’re really good. Especially Joel Wardle — he has been making like 10 touchdowns a game,” he shined. “If I could write my letter to Santa I’d want to put on there my Christmas wish is for Fairview to win state.”
City police Maj. Todd Kelley strolled the path estimating the historic crowd on hand. He credited good weather for the throngs in attendance.