DOTHAN, Ala. -- The Ashford Area Chamber of Commerce is throwing a holiday party, and the Wiregrass community is invited to attend.
Saturday, Dec. 8, downtown Ashford will be turned into a showplace for Christmas. A full slate of activities are now in the planning stage, and, if things come together as planned, area residents will have the opportunity to do some early shopping, enjoy Christmas carols, watch a colorful parade, and, to top it all off, meet Santa and Mrs. Claus.
The local chamber is breaking with tradition this year. The parade, which will be on Broadway Street, will be held in the afternoon. In years past, the event was held in the early evening, enabling float makers and other participants to use decorative lighting on their vehicles to promote the holiday spirit. The line-up for the parade will start at noon. The procession through downtown Ashford will begin at 1 p.m.
Skip Nelson, chairman of the board of the AACC, heads the organizational committee that has spent many weeks planning this year’s event.
“It’s been a little slow (getting commitments),” Nelson said. “We know it’s not going to be huge. But, we want it to be entertaining. We want to get the tradition back. We’re taking baby steps right now. I’m just glad we started early.
“What you think is easy, from the outside looking in, well, it’s not, when you see it from the inside out.”
A call, Nelson says, has been made to area communities to participate in the parade and other activities that will take place in the downtown area and at the Ashford Depot. He says vendors of all kinds are needed to encourage residents and visitors alike to spend the day in Ashford. The chamber is looking for vendors to include food, arts and crafts, toys, literature handouts, businesses, etc.
“We also encourage local churches, schools and organizations to set up a vendor space,” Nelson added.
There is a $10 fee for each vendor and each parade entry. The deadline to submit parade entries and vendor applications is Nov. 8.
“The fees will go to the Chamber of Commerce fund,” Nelson said. Those funds, he noted, will be used for future chamber projects.
Parade participants are also needed. These could include floats, pageant queens, elected officials (city, county, state), marching bands and area police, fire and rescue units.
“We’ve extended an invitation for the parade and the other events to all of the communities around Ashford,” Nelson said. “We want them to come and participate and enjoy the day with us.”
Ray and Kelli Barfield, parents of Lance Cpl. Jason Barfield, will serve as grand marshals of the parade.
An announcer will be on hand to describe the parade participants. There are also plans to have a signer on hand so that the event is inclusive.
While the parade is the focal point of the day’s activities, Nelson says other events are in the planning stage. But, he says, those things will need participants from throughout the area.
“We’re putting the word out to local guys to come and perform,” Nelson said. “We’re putting the word out, also, for bands to participate. We’re also trying to find some choirs that will come and sing carols.”
As the afternoon fades toward early evening, Nelson says more activities are planned.
“Santa and Mrs. Claus will be on hand to greet the children,” Nelson said. “We’re also planning a tree-lighting ceremony. It will be held close to twilight. We’re doing that for the people of Ashford.
“The day’s activities are really about getting some excitement in the community. With Dothan’s expansion on the east side with the college (Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine), we’re hoping to attract new businesses to Ashford.”
For more information, or to register an entry in the parade or reserve a vendor location, contact Skip Nelson at 796-5040 or email him at skipwdjr.com, or contact Phil Axtell, 797-1309.