Carly Stout, Editor
The Ashland Beacon
Ashland in Motion, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the revitalization of downtown Ashland, had the streets of Winchester Avenue bustling and lively for the return of First Friday on May 7.
“We were so encouraged and excited about First Friday,” said Ashland City Commissioner Marty Gute. “It was quite a success. Everyone I ran into were so happy to be out and about. Downtown was buzzing with young and old alike. To have been a first run since the pandemic canceled so many events the past year, it was a hit. So thankful to the city, and all the sponsors that worked so hard to make this happen. Stay tuned, much more to come.”
The event had a Mother’s Day theme, with carnations given out to all the women in attendance by volunteers.
AIM said that they were focused on the health and safety of community members in attendance, so social distancing was encouraged, and King’s Daughters Medical Center was in attendance giving free COVID-19 vaccinations.
The event also held a cruise-in, live music, an outdoor beer garden, children’s activities, and the sidewalks were lined with vendors and businesses offering specialized products. Artists were also seen creating pieces with sidewalk chalk, and Ashland’s Art Alley featured live entertainment.
“I think it went better than anyone could have possibly anticipated,” said City of Ashland Mayor Matt Perkins. “Our community has been diligent about sacrificing so much for the health and well-being of their neighbors and this felt like a celebration of that effort. I could not be prouder of the kickoff of our First Friday season and it is all because of the great partnership of the staff of our city, Ashland in Motion and VisitAKY, all working in concert to provide fun things to do downtown. Looking forward to what they can do next month.”
Ashland City Commissioner Josh Blanton said that he was proud of everyone who made it happen.
“Ashland In Motion just brought on Holly Stone as Executive Director and Elizabeth Hensley as Director of Strategic Communications and they did a fantastic job of planning the event in only a matter of days,” said Blanton. “Although this event was slightly scaled down, we were incredibly excited to be able to tie in our new creative branding with music in Broadway Square as well as Art Alley, which had a piano player along with our new murals. A big thanks goes out to Lyndi Lowman and Grace Dixon from AKY Urban Art Projects for helping have the alley ready for its event debut. This event was just a small sample of the wonderful things yet to come in our city.”
Holly Stone was recently brought onto Ashland in Motion as Executive Director and Elizabeth Hensley was recently appointed as Director of Strategic Communications.
“I was very happy with our First Friday,” said Stone. “I felt like there was a very diverse crowd, and all of them were intermingling. It was very family friendly. The pickleball was a success too. All the parts got moving together and it really flowed. Everyone I spoke with was really happy with how things went. Ashland is in motion.”
“I was so happy that the weather held out,” said Hensley. “We had such great volunteers, and our board was down there. We all pitched in and put everything together, and with all that help it was really a success. The music was great. Art Alley was great. It was amazing to see people really getting downtown and utilizing what we have down there already. We had music in three places, everybody loved the pickleball. There were new businesses down there.”
Stone said that there were hundreds in attendance, and all 300 carnations were given out to women.
“Going forward our goal would be to grow participation through vendors, grow our artists to show off their artwork, and show the community in Ashland and around Ashland that this is where it is at for live music and art,” said Hensley. “We want people excited about being in town and being around people again. This is a big deal to be around family and friends again in a space where you feel safe. I feel that people were really happy to be out again.”
“We are so impressed with the police department and Parks and Recreation, the radio station, the fire department, everyone just pulled together,” said Stone. “The Winchester, the pickleball club, KDMC, all the sponsors, everyone was just so supportive. We all had a common goal to move forward.”
“I think there is a bigger appreciation for what Ashland has to offer,” said Hensley.