ASHLAND — The streets of downtown Ashland are beginning to look a lot like Christmas as the city prepares for its fourth annual parade, tree lighting and fireworks event.
And it was all made possible by an anonymous gift of $100,000.
Ashland Mayor Matt Miller said he was beside himself when the donor called him up one early morning recently to tell him he’d deliver the hundred-grand check to city hall.
“He said we could spend it the way we want ... to bring Christmas to downtown Ashland. It’s pretty awesome,” Miller said.
The mayor said he would announce the donors’ identities either on Dec. 4 during the city-wide festivities or a couple days prior.
The funds will buy a wreath, Nativity scene, an ornament sculpture and fireworks.
Holiday festivities downtown will begin with Shop Hop from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Nov. 26, or Black Friday, and run again Nov. 27 and Dec. 4. Shoppers are incentivized to visit the 16 participating businesses to get a punch on a provided card for a chance to win a “basket of awesomeness,” Tunnell said.
The basket will include gift cards and an assortment of other small gifts.
The businesses will also participate in a competition for the best window display following Ashland Main Street’s “My Favorite Christmas Song” theme.
The theme will trickle into the parade, too — which is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. on Dec. 4 following 2020’s route from Claremont to Main Street. Ashland Main Street Director Sandra Tunnell said the parade has around 50 participants signed up so far.
Tunnell said parade participation will be capped at 75 again this year — another 2020 leftover.
Floats that best fit the “My Favorite Christmas Song” are promised cash prizes, Tunnell said. For more details, click here.
The atmosphere leading up to the parade and fireworks will be festive, thanks in part to the $100,000 donation — which has resulted in the purchase of a 12-foot wreath to hang on 16 E. Main St., a 22-piece Nativity scene and a Christmas ornament pyramid-like sculpture to be installed at Bicentennial Park and Foundation Plaza.
Miller said the city also designed new red banners that will twirl up Main Street’s light poles, along with twinkling lights.
The street’s flower pots will also be the home of living, lighted pine trees for the next few months, before they are re-planted elsewhere in the city. All the deciduous trees will also be lighted, Miller said.
“It’s going to look amazing,” Miller said, adding many of the decorations have already begun.
The tradition of lighting up the 40-foot, artificial Christmas tree at Corner Park will continue this year, following the conclusion of the parade.
“After the parade, a crowd gathers around and we light the tree. Mr. and Mrs. Claus are there and then immediately after we have our fireworks show. And they are spectacular because they’re shot at a lower level — it has an awesome effect,” he said.
Miller touted the city’s Christmas event as impressive.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people saying, ‘I can’t believe that was Ashland.’ I’ll tell you, (the downtown Christmas) rivals to what you find in big cities,” Miller said.