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DailyTidings.com
  • Festival of Light brightens the season

    About 10,000 revelers gather to take in lights
  • A bundled up sea of celebrators swarmed behind the Claus family's sleigh as the tail end of Ashland's 20th annual Festival of Light parade eased into the Plaza for a countdown to Southern Oregon's most grandiose holiday light display, Friday.
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  • A bundled up sea of celebrators swarmed behind the Claus family's sleigh as the tail end of Ashland's 20th annual Festival of Light parade eased into the Plaza for a countdown to Southern Oregon's most grandiose holiday light display, Friday.
    "Ho, ho, ho!" Santa bellowed over the jubilant crowd standing below his perch on the balcony of Alex's Plaza Restaurant and Bar, where he stood waving, flanked by Mrs. Claus and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
    About 10,000 merrymakers packed into Ashland's downtown area for the well-known celebration, said Katharine Flanagan, marketing director for the Chamber of Commerce, which hosted the parade.
    Santa put the finishing touches on Black Friday with a countdown to the Grand Illumination, simultaneously flicking on more than 1 million individual white lights strung over downtown buildings.
    "It's a family tradition for us," said Jaime Hartt, walking back through the downtown dazzle with 5-year-old Nolan Hartt grasping her right hand and Sophia Hartt, 8, clutching her left. "It was great as usual," she said, her breath visible in the 40-degree chill.
    Nolan and Sophia have seen the parade plenty of times in the past, they said, but it's always worth watching.
    "I always come to see the parade, too," said 11-year-old Joseph Wallner-Sentle. "When they light it up, it looks really cool "… it's how we celebrate the holidays."
    Downtown businesses were bustling with shoppers from the morning on, said Flanagan.
    Just before the parade, customers were packed into Lithia Park Shoes, The Music Coop, Paddington Station and Bloomsbury Books.
    "We provide our own little version of Black Friday here in Ashland," said Flanagan. "And the parade was magical; the little kids were creating memories."
    As 10-foot-tall King Winter and the rest of the Ashland Community Hospital float kicked off the parade in front of the public library at about 5 p.m., kids sitting farther down the route were stretching out in the street for an early glimpse of the caravan.
    "This is one of the key community events in Ashland, and I am proud to be a part of it," said Rylan Heyerman, towering above the crowd on King Winter's stilts."
    Paul and Miranda Hennan make the trip from Corvallis to see the parade each year, said Paul Hennan, 34.
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