A Merry Hometown Holiday

Downtown Russell Brings Christmas Cheer

 Kathy Clayton

The Ashland Beacon


   “City sidewalks, busy sidewalks…dressed in holiday style…people passing meeting smile after smile…” The lyrics of the beloved Christmas carol describe the atmosphere that organizers hope to bring back to downtown Russell with a Christmas revitalization event, Hometown Holidays.

   The city, local businesses and the Russell High School orchestra are working together to make the holiday season a special event and recreate some of the community spirits of years gone by. It will be an all-day event, with a 5K run in the morning, ending with a free concert at 7 p.m. that evening.

   “The overall goal of the day is to bring back that rustic Christmas feel that reminds me of being the norm – helping your neighbor,” said orchestra director Drew Stowers. He said it has taken an entire community effort to bring about the event to help support the Shop Local effort.

   The event will kick off at 9 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 8, with a 5K run. Vendors will be open at 10 a.m., with sales continuing throughout the day. Stowers is hoping to put together a few musicians from the orchestra as roving performers who will go from shop to shop and play music. Many shop owners will have cider, hot chocolate, coffee and cookies available for shoppers.

   “I’m not sure how many children we’ll have performing during the day. They’re all involved in different things – softball, dance, ROTC, many activities,” he said. “But I think it’s great that these children with diverse interests can come together to play music.”

   According to community activist Cheryl Jones, whose husband runs businesses in downtown Russell, the city has worked with the school to move the traditional Christmas parade from Thursday night to Saturday evening.

   Santa Claus will be meeting with children at the old depot at the top of Ferry Street. “I believe there will be a story hour at 1 p.m. with Mrs. Claus,” said Jones, “with hot chocolate, a snack and a small craft for the children.”

   The parade line up will begin at 4 p.m. on Clinton Street, at the end of the viaduct. “This year’s Grand Marshal of the parade is Sue Gilmore Dowdy, who lives here in Russell, and is always ready to lend a hand for anything the city is doing,” said Jones. Dowdy has a long history of civic activism in the area, including serving for 26 years as the parade organizer among many other accomplishments.

   Following the parade, the longtime Russell tradition of having chili with Santa at the fire station will continue, and the event will culminate with an evening concert performed by the sixth grade and high school RHS orchestra members at the Life Song Church.

   Local business owners are excited to have such community support for the Shop Local initiative. “I’m thrilled that so many special events have been coordinated for the day,” said Sherry Murrey, who with her husband Bill, owns The Basket Case, a vintage décor shop. “I think hosting these kinds of events is important to the life of the city – it’s special. I’d like to see more events.”

   “I’d really like this to become an annual event,” said Stowers. “My dad was an entrepreneur and I want people to see what we have going here. I think a rustic Christmas atmosphere is something downtown Russell can excel at.”

   David Craft, of Diamond Furniture, said his restoration business would be participating in the event. “We’ll be open all day, we’ll probably have coffee and cookies. We enjoy contributing to the neighborhood activities like this.”

   For information on registering as a vendor, contact Stephanie Huffman at 606.923.5094, to register for the parade, contact the city of Russell at 606.836.9666, or Cheryl Jones at 502.314.4662. For more information about the entire event, visit the website at Hometown-Holidays.com.