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Festival of Light illuminates the season

Christmas officially arrives in Ashland Friday, Nov. 29, the day after Thanksgiving, with the 27th annual Festival of Light.

It will be followed by nearly a month of merrymaking.

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the winter solstice or any other tradition, the Ashland Chamber of Commerce’s annual gala is a festive way to launch the season.

The festival begins at 4 p.m. when the Jefferson State Choral Coalition warms up the gathering crowd with an hourlong show from the Brickroom restaurant balcony overlooking the Ashland Plaza. Conductor Kirby Shaw and his ensemble will celebrate the joy of the season by performing carols and holiday favorites. Emcees will be Vicki and Greg Capp, owners of the Iris Inn bed and breakfast.

Santa’s Parade begins at 5 p.m. It will form at the Ashland library and make its way down East Main Street to the Plaza, where Santa and Mrs. Claus will preside over the Grand Illumination. More than a million lights will transform downtown Ashland into a jaw-dropping, magical display in an instant.

Following the parade, Santa and Mrs. Claus will meet and greet families and children at the Black Swan Theater, a block north of the Plaza.

“Bring your cameras,” said Dana Preston, membership and business development director for the chamber.

“Chamber volunteers help with decorations, and we have a beautiful chair set up where Santa can visit with the kids,” she said.

The chamber has help from Oregon Shakespeare Festival folks with set pieces that add to the holiday scene.

“We make it look good, but they make it look polished.”

Families are welcome to take their own photos with Santa. Chamber elves and reindeer will be on hand to assist.

“We’ll be there until the last child in line has had an opportunity to see Santa,” Preston said.

The chamber will promote the festival and shopping at home by direct mailing thousands of Ashland Holiday Gift Guides to residents of the greater Ashland area Nov. 23. Copies also will be available at select retail locations. Special retail events are planned.

Chamber members will participate Nov. 30 in Small Business Saturday, a national event designed to showcase local retailers.

“Many of our members will offer special values that day,” Preston said.

Chamber members are also encouraged to participate Dec. 3 in Giving Tuesday, a global giving initiative. Celebrated in the U.S. the Tuesday following Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many people focus on end-of-year giving.

“Participating merchants will do their own thing by donating a share of sales to local charities and organizations that day,” Preston said.

Strong believers in the mantra “shop at home,” chamber members encourage locals to support hometown businesses in order to save time and gas. For many people, it’s the natural thing to do, to build their own community instead of somebody else’s.

The chamber offers gift certificates in several denominations. They can be purchased online at ashlandchamber.com or at the chamber office, 110 E. Main St., open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“They make great holiday gifts and are redeemable at more than 40 locations in Ashland,” Preston said.

“Walking in a Window Wonderland,” launched in 2018, will be back this year. It’s a window decorating contest for Ashland businesses. More than 20 participated last year. Shoppers can pick up a ballot and vote for their favorite.

Each participating business contributes a gift certificate. After the votes are tallied to determine the favorite window, a ballot is drawn and the shopper who submitted it will receive a basket full of gifts and all the certificates.

Ice skating in Lithia Park will add to the holiday festivities. The outdoor Ashland Rotary Centennial Ice Rink, 95 Winburn Way, is scheduled to open Nov. 21, and offers skating for all ages. First Frost, an annual event at the rink, will be held Saturday, Dec. 14, featuring costumed characters, figure skating performances, music with a live DJ, games and festive activities. Skate rentals accommodate toddler size 9 to men’s size 15. For more information, call the rink during operating hours at 541-488-9189 beginning Nov. 21, or see the city’s website, ashland.or.us.

Jim Flint is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at jimflint.ashland@yahoo.com.

PHOTO BY GRAHAM LEWISKids can talk to Santa and get their pictures taken after the parade Nov. 29 at the Black Swan. There is no charge. Parents are invited to bring their own cameras.
PHOTO BY GRAHAM LEWISLast year's crowds were big for the Grand Illumination when more than a million lights were turned on, lighting up downtown Ashland. Santa and Mrs. Claus will preside over this year's Festival of Light Nov. 29, the day after Thanksgiving.