In photo albums tucked on shelves in an attics around Ashland, photographs of Stir-Up are likely to be found like these. The top photo shows a carnival in downtown Ashland during the 1974 Stir-Up. At right, Gary Bates and his cousins, Linda and Sharon Hemke, participate in the Ashland 1953 Stir-Up Kiddie Parade. They are shown in front of the John Deere dealership owned by their grandfather, Forrest Raikes. Gary’s father, Jerald Bates, operated Jerry’s Goodyear Tire Shop on the east end of the building at 16th and Silver, presently Lee Sapp Ford.
The Ashland Chamber of Commerce organized the first Stir-Up in 1935 after a successful community picnic the year before. The Chamber of Commerce felt a large community celebration would bring even more people to Ashland and in turn would increase commerce in the city. They planned it for October, when new fall merchandise was on store shelves.
The local business owners were adept at marketing, and dreamed up unique ways to promote the new festival. First, they sponsored a contest to name the event. The winning name was chosen out of over 3,000 entries.
Contestants were urged to choose a name that would be used “year after year for the celebration, which is to be made an annual affair,” according to The Ashland Gazette. “Make the name brief, snappy and right to the point…something that will describe the celebration as well as create interest,” the Gazette went on to say.
K.V. Russell of Ashland won the $25 prize with his entry, “The Stir-Up.” His entry was selected for being unique.
The crowning of a king and queen of Stir-Up did not enter the picture until 1948, when Dr. O.H. Ziegenbein and Shirley Hemke were awarded the honor.