ASHLAND With the thrust of a Shriner’s hips and a wave from Santa, Ashland officially welcomed in the 2021 Christmas season.

The Ashland Christmas Parade returned to full glory Tuesday after scaling down last year to Santa on a firetruck with a police escort due to the pandemic.

Lights and fringe lined the trailers holding the floats that would make their way to an enthusiastic crowd.

The theme for this year’s parade was “Christmas Miracle” with accomplished softball player Montana Fouts serving as the Grand Marshal. Fouts was easily recognizable with her cowboy hat standing by family and friends with Alabama gear.

Fouts said she was honored to be asked and is incredibly thankful for the support of her hometown and region. The East Carter graduate noted the amount of support and messages she receives especially during the spring while she is in season.

Fouts posed for photos with parade goers and spoke eloquently and complimentary of her home state. The collegiate softball player expressed how proud she is to be from Kentucky and to bring recognition to the area.

“I love being from Kentucky,” said Fouts. “I’m super grateful to be from a small town and be from such an amazing state.”

She also knows the impact she has on the younger generation, especially being an inspiration to young women and girls.

“It’s definitely motivational and I want to see being a role model for them and be everything they deserve in a role model and give them hopes and dreams and so they can do anything they want to do,” sad Fouts.

Final preparations were made throughout the downtown streets before floats and groups headed towards Winchester. A Kentucky Fried Chicken Bucket, a castle, minions, a nativity scene joined beauty queens, dancers and cheerleaders in spreading Christmas cheer.

Ambulances and fire trucks from around the region were covered in lights with first responders and front line workers ready to be back with the community.

Walter Eldridge with King’s Daughter Medical Transport said it was nice to be finding some normalcy this holiday season back at the Ashland Christmas parade. Eldridge said there were more than 200 people involved and walking the parade from King’s Daughters between the medical center and the medical transport.

Wesley Walters said it’s been a while and its good to be back representing the Summit-Ironville Fire Department. His favorite part of the parade is seeing the kids smiling and waving.

The parade wouldn’t be complete without the sounds of Christmas provided by local high school marching bands. The musicians marched in perfect time as vibrant carols rang through their instruments.

Blazer Band Director Chris Whelan said any opportunity to get out in the community and perform is a great opportunity. Assistant Director Roger Doss added that being able to perform in their hometown parade is a great opportunity so people can remember they can have a good time. One piece the band was excited to bring to the crowd Tuesday night is “Jingle Bell Jam.”

The Chesapeake High School band’s hometown parade in Huntington was canceled, so Director Matt Chaffins brought the band to Ashland. Chaffins is familiar with the parade having been at Greenup and now new to Chesapeake.

Chaffins said the band had a successful marching season scoring ones, the best mark, with Ohio’s high school music association. Marching in the parade gave the students another opportunity to get back to normal.

“The kids are thrilled to be making live music again,” said Chaffins.

Joining the high school bands to represent the next generation were several JROTC programs.

Master Gunnery Sgt. Paul Sites with Greenup County High School’s Marine JROTC said having the JROTC students out in the community gives them the opportunity to share with the community what they are learning about patriotism.

First Sgt. Dan Meek with Boyd County High School’s Navy JROTC shared it’s an opportunity for the students of different schools to be together and see each other at the same time with multiple branches represented. Ashland Blazer ROTC and Elliott County High School ROTC also marched in the parade.

People waved to the crowd, clapping and singing along to the songs of the holiday season. Candy scattered the ground as children and adults alike rushed to grab a few of their favorite treats. Floats pulled by freshly washed trucks made their way down Winchester under the cover of street lights and lit Christmas wreaths placed perfectly on the light posts.

Stockings and poinsettia flowers and garland strung across each intersection as the community gathered together warmed by mittens and scarves to celebrate a tradition missed last year.

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