Santa will stick around this year after Festival of Light

Ashland's Chamber of Commerce has plans to brighten this year's Festival of Light for children and adults of every tradition.

In addition to ornaments, decorations and more than one million lights, Ashland's downtown will feature carolers every Friday and Saturday evening for the duration of the festival, which lasts from the day after Thanksgiving through January.

While Santa Claus will be making his usual appearance at the Grand Illumination, which follows the Festival of Light parade Friday, he will also be available for pictures in front of the Chamber of Commerce's downtown office every Saturday from 11 a.m. to — p.m.

In years past, the Chamber had Santa on the Plaza along with horse and carriage rides but after the carriage company went out of business "Santa got lonely," said Mary Pat Parker, director of public relations and marketing for the Chamber. Parker is glad to be able to bring Santa back for personal visits.

"It's really all about creating magic for the children," she said, "and we in Ashland have the perfect backdrop for that."

To add to the magic the Ashland Springs Hotel will host Mrs. Claus on Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. for story time. Children can warm up with hot cider and cookies while Mrs. Claus reads classic Christmas tales to them.

Dan Anway, general manager of the hotel, acknowledges that these activities are as much for the community as a whole as they are for the children.

"The point of doing this is to support the community by attracting tourists to Ashland to shop, to dine in our restaurants and to experience this wonderful setting for the holidays," he says.

In the view of Ramona Rubio, owner of the Inner Child Caf&

233;, this is also an opportunity to expand children's experience by teaching them the many ways that the holiday season is celebrated around the world.

"The whole concept is multiculturalism so, how do you introduce children to other cultures?" said Rubio. "I think it is best to do it around the holidays, where most children are only familiar with American secular and Christian traditions."

The cafe will have craft activities for children every Sunday morning from 10 a.m. to — p.m.

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