Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

November 21, 2013

Holiday cheer

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Ashland

The Independent

ASHLAND — Thanksgiving is one week from today, but it already is beginning to look a lot like Christmas throughout the region. While we once considered the annual Ashland Christmas Parade on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving as the unofficial start of the Christmas season in this city, that no longer is the case.

Thanksgiving used to mark the beginning of the Christmas shopping season, but by the time Halloween arrives on the last day of October, retail stores now already are decorated for the holidays  and promoting Christmas sales.

The Winter Wonderland of Lights around Central Park were officially turned on Monday and a steady stream of vehicles immediately began encircling the park, a flow that will continue each evening until after Christmas. Scores of visitors from communities as far as 100 miles from Ashland annually make the drive to this city just to see the lights. While here, they usually dine at a restaurant and some even spend the night in a local motel. When they do, they are boosting this community’s tourist economy.

But even before the lights were turned on, hundreds of shoppers flocked to the Ashland Town Center for the annual Magical Night of Giving, which was Sunday night. That event not only is a plus for mall merchants, it also benefits dozens of nonprofit organizations who sell the $5 tickets for the events, with all of the proceeds going to the organizations.

The Needy Families Fund launched its annual campaign during the Magical Night of Giving, and shoppers began plucking from Angel Trees sponsored by CAReS. Those who do buy gifts for the child whose name is on the card can return them to the Ashland Town Center or the CAReS office in The Neighborhood for distribution to those in need.

This is the 25th Year for the Needy Families Fund, and the four non-profit agencies that benefit from the fund — CAReS and the Salvation Army in Boyd County, Helping Hands in Greenup  County and Project Merry Christmas in Carter County — are hoping that the silver aAnniversary will boost giving, which has been down for the past two years. We also are hoping for the successful campaign not because this newspaper started the Needy Families Fund in 1988 but because the need is still great.

The annual Festival of Trees and Trains — another local holiday tradition — opens Friday at the Paramount Arts Center and will continue through Dec. 1. If you like holiday trees and model trains then visit to the festival should be high on your to-do list.

We may be prejudiced, but we believe the Ashland Christmas Parade is one of the best. Sometimes it is a bit too long, and Mother Nature does not always cooperate by sending clear skies and mild temperatures for the parade, but if the weather is dry and the temperatures are not too frigid, you can be sure that thousands will line Carter and Winchester avenues Tuesday night to see the parade. The parade does not change all that much from year to year, but it continues to be worth seeing. And, of course, Santa Claus will be on hand for the parade, and just about every area high school marching band will be in the parade. 

On the day after Thanksgiving is Black Friday, the year’s biggest day for holiday bargains. Expect people to begin lining up outside some stores late Thanksgiving evening just to take advantage of some of the fantastic bargains they are promising, at least for the stores who aren’t opening on Thanksgiving Day. For many merchants, Black Friday can set the tone for the entire holiday shopping season. A great sales sale can start a trend that lasts until Christmas.

There are many other events in the weeks ahead including a tour of holiday homes, the Jingle Bell Ball, “A Christmas Carol” at Ashland Community and Technical College, four Christmas-themed events at the Paramount Arts Center, numerous church cantatas, and more holiday parties that one can count.

No wonder Christmas is the favorite — and most exhausting — times of year for so many people. Sure, many of us overdo by spending too much and putting too much emphasis on Santa Claus and not enough on the religious aspect of the holiday, but there is no queston that people’s moods are brighter at this time of the year. Whether they greet us with a “Merry Christmas!” or a “Happy holidays!” we like it.