Black Friday will end in Ashland with a dazzling display on Nov. 23 as downtown businesses simultaneously flick on more than 1 million miniature bulbs during the town's 20th annual Festival of Light.
The celebration kicks off on the Ashland Plaza at 1 p.m. with live entertainment from musical and theater groups. The Claus family will lead the 5 p.m. parade by sleigh, accompanied by elves, reindeer and about 200 other marchers. The parade begins at the Ashland library and heads down East Main Street to the Plaza for caroling and a countdown to the Grand Illumination at 5:45 p.m.
As many as 10,000 merrymakers are expected to attend the celebration, said Katharine Flanagan, marketing director for the Ashland Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the event.
At 6:30 p.m., Santa will be available to hear kids' gift wishes and pose for pictures at the Black Swan Theater. Flanagan expects more than 300 kids to line up for the opportunity.
With help from Ashland-based Solar Styles, the Ashland Boy Scout troop and Anderson Auto Body and Paint, the chamber refurbished 41 historic lanterns with bright red paint and solar-powered LED lights, to hang this year.
The project is a part of an ongoing effort to make the festival as energy efficient as possible, Flanagan said.
In 2009, the chamber refurbished its 50 big wreaths with LED lights — along with adding new garlands and ribbons. Last year, the chamber swapped LED lights into its snowflake decorations that hang Ashland Streets lampposts, and all of the outside lights on stores should be shifted to LED, as opposed to incandescent, within the next few years, Flanagan said.
It takes more than a month for Stacy Davis and his crew of holiday light hangers to prepare for the celebration, Davis said.
His crew hangs all of the decorations for the Chamber of Commerce, but hanging the lights are what takes the most time, he said.
With a 20-foot string of holiday lights typically containing 100 bulbs, all of the lights connected together would stretch for about 38 miles.
About 90 percent of the businesses keep their holiday lights up all year, Davis said, but that still leaves more than 100,000 lights to hang.
"It takes us right up until a couple of days before the parade to get them up," he said, using three people and a boom lift.
Usually Davis is running around making sure everything comes on when Santa hits the switch for the Grand Illumination, he said, so he doesn't get to enjoy the countdown.
But, he always enjoys stepping back when everything's said and done to admire the bright outlines of Ashland downtown.
"It's great to be a part of," Davis said. "I'm just glad seeing people get such joy out of it."
Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email email@example.com.