ASHLAND— A crowd of bundled-up Ashland residents stood at attention in front of a large, unlit Christmas tree. Their focus is on Ashland Mayor Matt Miller and the promise of a show.

“Ladies and gentlemen, let’s count,” Miller said.

“Seven! Six! Five! Four! Three! Two! One!,” the crowd chanted.

Strands of yellow lights wrapped in the Christmas tree sprang to life. Dozens of fireworks ripped through the air, exploding, sparkling, and booming. The streets below erupted into cheers and applause.

This was the scene in downtown Ashland Saturday night where hundreds of people lined Claremont Avenue and Main Street for Ashland’s annual Christmas Parade and Tree Lighting.

The parade was organized by Ashland Main Street led by Sandra Tunnell, while the tree lighting was put on by the city of Ashland. Both Tunnell and Miller said this year’s crowd was the largest they have seen since the event began. Tunnell jokingly estimated the crowd size to be in the millions.

Before the tree lighting, Olaf the snowman from Disney’s Frozen, a mechanical walker from Star Wars, danced while Santa Claus and more made appearances in the parade of 81 floats.

The past few parades ended up being “grinchy” so the parade committee chose a more open-ended theme for this year’s parade: “What does Christmas mean to me?”

“I feel like every year people put together just amazing floats and really get excited about it and really put all of their heart into it. It’s really fun to watch what people come up with every year,” Tunnell said.

After the procession of floats made its way down Claremont Ave. and onto Main Street, it was time for the tree lighting and fireworks show. Hundreds gathered around Ashland’s Corner Park to listen to some holiday tunes and watch the tree, and the sky, come to life.

“You can just feel a spirit of joy in the air. People are all smiles, they’re dancing along to all their favorite Christmas songs,” Miller said.

Planning for this year’s event happened throughout the year, Miller added. In fact, he anticipates that work on next year’s festivities will begin as early as next week.

“As soon as the evening is over, both Ashland Main Street and the city of Ashland start going over what we could do different, what we could do better for next year,” he said.

The Life section is supported by Brethren Care Village in Ashland.

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