Fifth-graders at Rose Hill Christian School got a behind-the-scenes peek at the Ashland Alliance’s Winter Wonderland of Lights on Tuesday.
The class got a guided tour of the garage where the light displays are stored and prepared each winter and then spent some time viewing the lighted ones in Central Park.
WWOL Chairman Marion Russell led the tour and shared with the class some insider tidbits on everything from the breakability of bulbs to how the beloved holiday undertaking comes together. He even solicited suggestions from the group on who next year’s parade grand marshal should be. President Obama and UK’s basketball team got enthusiastic endorsements from the children, but aren’t likely to happen, Russell told them.
“This year I have touched every display that is up, and so has every one on our committee, to make sure that when it went up it worked right. Every piece that went up this year was inspected and checked by the committee,” said Russell, whose who has been involved for the entire 24-year lifespan of event.
He’s never been shocked by a display, but some committee members have, he said.
His favorite Christmas display? “All of them,” Russell said.
A particular highlight for the class was Russell’s demonstration of the durability of the old-style standard glass bulbs versus the energy efficient LED bulbs, which are made of a tougher plastic material and are harder to break. Several of the students tried their hand at breaking a few of the burned out bulbs.
Student Clay Woods was surprised at how many bulbs are on display. According to Russell, there are more than 800,000.
“I didn’t know they did the city (lights),” said Khyla Fowler. Hannah Davis learned the festival also puts on the Christmas parade, she said her family attends it “sometimes.”
The most important lesson Russell shared with students was about how different parts of the community come together to make the festival, sponsored by the Ashland Alliance, happen.
It’s all done with volunteer power, Russell told the students. “We have a very good community that has people that will volunteer and do things and we get a lot of community support for all the different events,” he said. Russell, who uses his vacation time to work the event, said he does it because of the joy it brings himself, the community and the visitors that come from far and wide.
“To me and a lot of the ones on the committee, everyone else gets one day of Christmas; we get six weeks,” explained Russell.
That spirit of volunteerism and act of giving to the community is exactly what teacher Beth Maynard had in mind to teach her class when she set up the trip.
“I wanted them to appreciate all that our community has to offer. This is one of the best things that we have. It is volunteers and they give their time, and the kids needed to appreciate what is done for them,” she said.
Maynard said the field trip was one of the highlights of the classes’ 121⁄2 days of Christmas celebration.
“What is Christmas?” Maynard said, explaining how she went about teaching her class about the most important of all holidays. “It’s not in a box. It’s not in a store. Christmas is all about Christ and his command was to love one another, and the way that you should love is to enjoy doing things together, so we decided we would do something together every day to enjoy the holiday.”
So far, the class has learned a special Christmas song, “Baby Love Crashed into the World,” watched “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” made tree ornaments, played a game called NOEL, listened to Christmas carols, ate cookies and drank hot chocolate. Upcoming plans include a toy drive for needy children, watching the original “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and, of course, a Christmas party before the break.
CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2653.