The annual celebration of Ashland’s founding will begin Friday when the Poage Landing Days festival kicks off in downtown Ashland.
Events get under way at noon with food vendors and musical entertainment opening three days of activities. PLD president Phillip Stewart said this year’s festival promises the same free, family fun and entertainment as years past, with a few notable highlights.
Among them is a decision by the International Slalom Skateboarding Association to add stature to the festival’s Southern Fried Conefest Contest. Saturday is expected to bring some of the fastest skateboarders in the world to Ashland, including a Guinness Book of World Records holder — or two. Already, participants from across the United States, Canada and England have signed up to compete.
Stewart said the reception and support Poage’s event solicits from attendees is what propelled it into the spotlight. “It is just unreal how the crowd has latched onto this,” he said.
The 34th annual Poage Landing Days 5K race is also getting a boost this year from a new sponsor, Stewart said. Southern Ohio Medical Center has signed on to sponsor the race, helping to provide more than $1,500 in door prizes, including a Garmin GPS watch and a 32-inch Vizio flat-screen television.
“We wanted to make this an even better event for our runners,” Stewart said, noting there are “probably 50 other door prizes” up for grabs by participants Saturday morning. For the first time, racers will receive a performance tech shirt, and if 200 racers sign up they will be chip-tracked through their racing bib.
Volunteers are also needed for the event, and will receive free T-shirts, Stewart said. Racers may sign up through Tri-StateRace.com, at PoageLandingDays.com or in person on race day.
Poage Landing Days will also feature more food and craft vendors than ever before, according to Stewart. The craft tent was extended by 40 feet this year and more street vendors were added to total approximately 60.
“We are almost to the point where we are going to have to turn them away,” Stewart said. In addition, more than 20 food vendors are expected at the festival.
As in past years, the festival will feature musical entertainment on a variety of stages. In addition to the Ed Haley Fiddle Fest inside the First Baptist Church Life Center at 1628 Winchester Ave., musical and dance acts will take place at stages on 16th and 15th streets.
This year’s main entertainment on Saturday night is a long-awaited concert by Diamond Rio.
“This will be one of the largest shows we have ever had, and we want people to come out and see them and have a good time,” Stewart said. The country music band with chart-topping hits spanning the last three decades has always been on the organizer’s wish list.
“This year we were able to make it happen,” he said. The show starts at 9 p.m. and will be preceded by a game show called “Cletus’ College of Backwoods Knowledge.” It will be hosted by comedian Cletus T. Judd, along with WTCR radio’s Judy Eaton and Clint McElroy.
The SteelDrivers, a Nashville-based bluegrass band, will headline Sunday’s entertainment schedule. The Grammy-nominated band is among the hottest acts in the country, Stewart said.
Another “don’t miss,” he said, will be Tim Horton’s first Timbit doughnut-eating contest. The first 20 contestants to sign up at the business’ booth will be eligible for the event, Stewart said.
“It’s going to be really fun. The doughnuts are not going to be very clean (to eat). They are going to use cream- and jelly-filled ones with powdered sugar and whipped cream on top. It’s a hands-free event,” he explained.
The festival is in downtown Ashland along Winchester Avenue and its side streets between 13th and 18th.
“That is what is so cool about Poage,” Stewart said. “Everything is within four or five blocks. We cram so much in those few blocks, it is very entertaining for everybody. Come on down and have fun. We have good food and good music.”
For a complete listing and schedule of events, visit PoageLandingDays.com or follow the festival on Facebook.
CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at (606) 326-2653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.