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Ashland embraces the spirit of the season



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The Ghost of Christmas Present confronts Ebenezer Scrooge during the Hampstead Players’ production of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” presented at the Ashland Baptist Church during Christmas in Ashland festivities last Friday night. (Marcia Morris) (click for larger version)
December 07, 2011
ASHLAND—The streets of downtown Ashland came to life with an abundance of festive activities as the annual Christmas Night in Ashland was celebrated last Friday evening.

A seemingly indefatigable Mr. S. Claus took requests from countless dozens of children at the Public Library throughout the evening, while also managing to perform his ceremonial tree-lighting responsibilities with customary joviality, as well. How does he do it?

As if that weren't enough, the Jolly One somehow managed to show up in good spirits the very next morning at the Common Man Breakfast to resume his briefly interrupted granting of wishes over pancakes. (And by Jolly One, we mean Santa.)

But Friday night was filled with fun, including a double horse drawn hayride through the streets, with bundles of good cheer filling the crisp night air with the sound of jingle bells, and Christmas carols, too. Inside at the Baptist Church, contestants were fueling up on hot chocolate and heading out into the streets with clues in hand on the annual "Christmas Carol"-inspired Scavenger Hunt. The adventure took them to the doorsteps of nine downtown businesses in search of hints along the route, to answer this year's burning question: What are the names of the children revealed by the Ghost of Christmas Present to Ebenzer Scrooge in Dickens' famous story?

Dozens of enterprising Ashland youth were able to piece together the answer to qualify to win one of several generously donated prizes at the end of the evening. If you weren't one of them… you'll have to look it up!

But the full house that assembled for this year's theatrical production of the Dickens holiday classic at the Ashland Baptist Church obviously got a heads up on the riddle during a lively and highly professional presentation by the Hampstead Players. Ebenezer Scrooge and a cast of all the familiar characters took to the stage during Christmas Night in Ashland to delight both kids and parents with a fast paced and interactive rendition of A Christmas Carol that seemed to keep even toddlers mesmerized.

Audience participation was key, as volunteer actors of all ages, drafted from the pews, performed beyond their wildest imaginings in sudden and impromptu roles, portraying characters as diverse as "Want" and "Ignorance" or the essential holiday hero, Tiny Tim. God bless us, everyone.

In its second year, the Hampstead Players' production of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" is fast becoming a highlight of Christmas Night in Ashland, earning a well-deserved reputation for delivering a joyful and meaningful contribution to the festivities. Thanks go to the Community Council of Ashland for helping to sponsor the performance that many locals hope will become a recurring feature of future holiday celebrations.

But back out in the streets, the shoppers and carolers and cocoa sipping scavenger hunters gave the entire downtown a feeling of bustling merriment. Down the street at the American Legion Hall, folks could warm up in good company, have a bite to eat, and wonder at the miniature Lionel Train set Christmas Village, while waiting for the Tree-lighting ceremony to get underway across the street in Memorial Park.

What can provide a more palpable sense of Christmas awe than the traditional miniature Lionel Christmas Village, complete with toy trains bounding in and out through tunnels carved out of snow-covered mountain peaks, loading up on cargos of coal (presumably not for stocking stuffers), and delivering warmth to downtown homes, churches and businesses of the tiny, toy "Ashlandesque" village?

This year's version came complete with the high tech addition of a virtual screening of such miniature movies as "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Miracle on 34th Street" at a tiny drive-in theater next to Frosty's Dairy Bar and the local dining car. Nice touch.

But of course, there is no substitute for the real thing, especially at Christmas…so as Ashland residents, neighbors, visitors and friends gathered together at Memorial Park for the grand finale of the evening, the tree lighting in Memorial Park, the spirit of community was evident in abundance. Master of Ceremonies, Parks and Rec Director Jim Gleich presided over the ceremony and gave thanks to all the many Ashalnd businesses, non-profit organizations and generous individuals who contributed to making the evening a success. Santa did the honors with a "Ho, Ho, Ho!" while being serenaded by the Ashland Elementary School Chorus, under the direction of popular, guitar strumming Music teacher, Mr. Brendan Dowd.

After the gifts were distributed to scavenger hunt and raffle prize winners, Santa took his leave of his enthusiastic admirers, saying "Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!"

Garnett Hill
Garnett Hill
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Martin Lord Osman
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