Ashland lights up the holidays

Shop windows, street lamps, trees and the city skyline along the Ashland Plaza and East Main Street will be festooned with lights and frills to ring in the holiday season for the 20th annual Festival of Light.

Livia Genise, Camelot Theatre's artistic director returns this year to emcee live music and entertainment on the Plaza. Festivities begin at 1 p.m. Friday, Nov. 23.

More Fools Than Wise — a choir featuring vocalists from Siskiyou Singers and Ancient Men — will present madrigals and other sacred music at 3 p.m. At 3:30 p.m., alternative rock band Chapter II will perform.

At 4:10 p.m., the cast of Camelot Theatre's production of "42nd Street" will present songs from the musical, including "I'm Young and Healthy," Go Into Your Dance," "Quarter to Nine" and "Lullaby of Broadway," and at 4:45, Genise will read "The Gift of the Magi," a sentimental story by author O. Henry with a moral lesson about gift-giving.

The Festival of Light Parade — with Santa and Mrs. Claus, elves, Rudolf and eight reindeer in the lead — will begin at 5 p.m. at the Ashland library and follow East Main Street to the Ashland Plaza. Santa and Mrs. Claus will take their places on the balcony at Alex's Plaza Restaurant and Bar to lead caroling and the countdown to the event's Grand Illumination at 5:45 p.m.

From 6:30 to 8 p.m., Santa and Mrs. Claus will be available in the Black Swan Theatre, at the corner of East Main and Pioneer streets, to hear children's Christmas wishes and hand out candy canes and other treats.

This year, the Ashland Chamber of Commerce — with help from Ashland-based Solar Styles, Ashland Boy Scout Troop 112 and Anderson Auto Body and Paint — refurbished 41 historic lanterns with bright, red paint and solar-powered light-emitting diodes. They'll be displayed along East Main Street from the library to the Plaza and along Lithia Way. The lanterns were displayed in downtown Ashland for about 40 years before removal for restoration.

There is an ongoing effort to make the festival as energy-efficient as possible. In 2009, the chamber refurbished 50 large wreaths with LEDs — along with adding new garlands and ribbons. Last year, the chamber added LEDs to its snowflake decorations that hang on Ashland Street's lampposts. All of the incandescent, outside lights on shops and buildings will be replaced with LEDs over the next few years.

If all of the holiday lights used to light up the city's winter festival were connected, the string would measure about 38 miles.

It takes Stacy Page, owner of Holiday Illuminations and GreenTime Landscaping, and his crew more than a month to prepare for the celebration. Using a boom lift, the crew hangs all of the chamber's wreaths, lanterns and other decorations.

About 90 percent of the downtown businesses keep their lights up all year, but that still leaves more than 100,000 lights to hang before Santa hits the switch for the Grand Illumination.

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