ASHLAND – After four years of co-organizing Ashland’s Hometown Christmas celebration, Brad Carlson said he’s glad each year has seen in increase in attendance, participation and sponsorships, but not enough to cancel the Norman Rockwellesque charm.
That small town charm was in ample evidence up and down Silver Street Saturday as children and families, singles and couples, young and old, busily attended the many events connected to the daylong celebration.
This year, the mild December weather drew smiles not complaints from both organizers and participants.
“The icing on the cake was the 54-degree sunny and mild weather,” said Carlson of the Ashland Area Chamber of Commerce.
The pleasant weather was a bonus for the thousands who turned out for some or all of the indoor and outdoor activities connected with Hometown Christmas Saturday. New additions this year included the bounce house and photo booth.
Catrina Harris, an attorney with Lutton Law, and Carlson of the Jones Group, were co-organizers of Hometown Christmas again for the fourth consecutive year. Carlson also served as MC of the Parade of Lights.
Harris said her involvement since the holiday festival’s inception has given her a greater appreciation of how the Ashland community comes together to work on a project.
“I’m impressed at how the various groups divide the work load,” she said.
The shared activities included elementary school students making the street crafts; churches hosting food, hayrack rides, carol singing and dance performances; the library sponsoring a display of gingerbread houses, a visit with Santa, a tree lighting with Ashland Greenwood Middle School carolers and screening a holiday movie; and local merchants providing food, beverages and games.
Float sponsorships for the annual Parade of lights were in addition to these activities.
This year, Carlson said the Parade of Lights featured 25 to 28 floats. He said for the third year in a row, the Uryasz family of Kansas City, Mo., who call their entry “The Ashland Christmas Club” sponsored a float in the parade.
Judges Mayor Richard Grauerholz and wife Becky awarded first place to Paul Badgett of Aurora who drove a 1946 Farmall model H tractor decorated with a lighted Rudolf reindeer in front and an inflatable Santa in back. Badgett received a check for $250.
Second place and $150 was awarded to Innovative Laboratory Systems for the Grinch (Chuck Niemeyer) and Cindy Lou Who (Hayley Seacrest). Third place and a $75 prize went to AGC Repair and Welding.
“This year we had our biggest level of sponsorship yet,” Carlson said. “We really appreciate all the businesses that support this fun, community event.”
Harris said she’s especially grateful to all the sponsors that generously pay for the hot dogs, hot chocolate, popcorn, portable toilets, trash removal and the hay rack rides.
“That’s the Christmas spirit coming through,” she said.