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Ashland kicks off the Christmas season

The performance of “A Christmas Carol” by the Hampstead Players at the Ashland Baptist Church was one of the many highlights of Christmas Night in Ashland this past weekend. Pictured: Ebenezer Scrooge in his nightshirt and the ghost of Christmas Present, with a little help from audience members, grapple with the true meaning of the holiday. (Marcia Morris) (click for larger version)
December 08, 2010
ASHLAND—It is not every day that you find yourself in traffic behind an old -fashioned horse drawn hay wagon on Main Street in Ashland, but along with a lot of other magical occurrences, it happens… but only on Christmas Night in Ashland.

Last Friday night, dozens of elvish looking kids of all ages, bundled up against the chill night air, could be observed bouncing merrily along in a two-horse open wagon behind David Sharp and his handsome pair of workhorses — Prince, a Belgian, age 29, and Ruby, a Percheron, age two. The horses may have looked like they were hard a work, pacing the circuit around town again and again, pulling wagonloads of revelers for hours on end. But according to Sharp, the team is used to much tougher assignments. The veteran horse logging team is accustomed regularly to heavy lifting forest assignments, year around, so for them, participating in the festivities in Ashland must have felt like a walk in the park. It was a lot of fun for the kids, too, but only the beginning of what was in store for the evening's celebration.

There was a line out the door at the Town Library for folks who wanted to hand deliver their "wish list" and get their Polaroid picture taken with the Jolly Old Man himself. After he was done with that assignment, the town fathers had much more in store for Mr. Claus, but not before everyone visited the miniature train depot set up inside the Baptist Church Fellowship Hall, filled up on some cookies and cocoa, and got their assignments for the town-wide Scavenger Hunt.

Ashland Park and Rec's Jim Gleich sent the enthusiastic teams of clue hunters out on the town to piece together the answer to the puzzle so they could earn a chance to win a big prize at night's end. It took a successful journey through the downtown and collection of eight different puzzle pieces to complete the answer to the all-important question: what is the full name of the author of "A Christmas Carol?" Only the winners know for sure! (For more, check out the Record Enterprise on Facebook page, and see some photos from Christmas Night in Ashland.)

Speaking of which, a very big highlight of the evening in Ashland was the creative and original performance of "A Christmas Carol" by the Hampstead Players, a professional, educational theatre company — in this case, a resourceful and ingenious duo of talented company actors, Alex Jacobs and Sarah Bedard, with the invaluable impromptu assistance of audience member "draftees" for the occasion. The clever theatrical staging and costuming and the truly spellbinding performances of Scrooge (by Jacobs) and everyone else in the story (by Bedard) were spirited and thoroughly enjoyable for everyone! (To learn more about the Hampstead Players, visit their Web site at www.Hampsteadstage.org.)

The grand finale of the evening was, of course, the tree lighting ceremony at Memorial Park, with caroling and the awarding of Scavenger Hunt prizes and announcing of the winners of the Christmas Wreath Raffle. After making his own rather theatrical entrance atop the fire engine, Mr. Claus himself flipped the switch that ignited the beautiful Holiday Tree. The season is officially started in Ashland!

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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