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Festival of Trees to open at Paramount Nov. 22

Ashland’s premier Christmas event returns this month.

The Paramount Arts Center Festival of Trees and Trains will have a preview party on Nov. 21 and opens to the public on Nov. 22. It ends on Nov. 30.

The event is presented by the Paramount Women’s Association, which with the help of volunteers turns the historic art deco movie and performing arts theater into a sea of lights, trees, and trains.

Christy Reaves, of Ashland, Ky., is the co-chair for the festival along with Sharon Walker of Ironton

“Last year, we had 12,400 people through the doors,” Reaves said. “It’s getting bigger every year.”

The newest addition to the Festival of Trees this year is a big, O gauge train set from a retired South Point engineer, Bob Cruickshank.

“He had this train layout in his living room for like 15 years,” Reaves said. “It’s 12 feet by 14 feet. It’s beautiful, it’s top quality track and engines.”

Cruickshank had been trying to sell the train set and the numerous accessories that go with it but when he heard about the Festival of Trees and Trains, he donated it for the event.

Volunteers took it and upgraded the electric system and fixed the things like the mountain scenes to be modular.

“It is beautiful,” she repeated. “It looks so realistic. There are probably 400 man-hours on this piece. It is a really special donation and we are proud to display it.”

Besides that train set, there are two others; one that is an interactive train layout and the Wonderland Railway, which is 52 feet long by 22 feet wide.

Another new feature this year is there will be a Christmas movie– Laurel and Hardy’s comedy “Babes in Toyland.”

It will be the Nov. 28, the day after Thanksgiving at 11 a.m.

“We are hoping that when all the people wake up to go shopping, afterwards they bring their kids or grandkids to watch the movie,” Reaves said. “A lot of people remember going to the Paramount when it showed movies and we hope they bring a new generation to share the experience.”

The premier night on Nov. 21 begins with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres from 7-9 p.m. and then dancing on stage with Ritchie Collins and Friends. “Many people consider this to be the start of the holiday season, so we decided to change things up a bit because it was just getting to feel like a normal event,” Reaves said. So the event will now be hosted by Mike and Cheri Leight.

“At 9 p.m., the party ceiling is going to come down and we are going to kick off our shoes and dance,” Reaves said. Chef Paul Runnel from The Chimney Corner restaurant is catering the premier night. “It’s going to be amazing.”

The cost is $75 per person. Call the Paramount Box Office at (606) 324-3175 to reserve tickets.

School children can get a look at the trees on Nov. 21, Nov. 24 and 25. Teachers can call the box office to schedule at (606) 324-3175 about discounted tickets.

There will be cocoa with Santa Claus from noon to 3 p.m. There will also be workshop and crafts with the elves. Parents can bring their own camera to take photos.

On Nov. 25, the same day as the Ashland Christmas Parade, families can get is for $10 from 3-9 p.m.

Tickets are $6 for adults, ages 13 to 54, $4 for seniors 55 and older, $4 for children under 12. Children under age 3 get in free.

The festival was started 24 years ago as a fundraising effort to pay for maintaining the theater, programming, and performance costs in the Youth Education Series as well as other student outreach activities, which serves over 55,000 Tri-State students each year.

Reaves said that the Paramount Women’s Association is able to put on this event with the help of a lot of volunteers donating their time.

“I can’t even fathom the number of volunteer hours this takes,” she said. “We just have waves of volunteers helping to do make this such a wonderful event.”

For more information and a full schedule of events, go to www.paramountartscenter.com or call the Paramount Box Office at (606) 324-3175.