Before heading into the New Year, while shining lights still glow and the holiday spirit warmly draws us together, I want to say it’s been a spectacular season. The new Town Christmas tree, taken together with all the other lighting and holiday decorations throughout Ashland has truly lifted up the community as a holiday beauty to behold. Many thanks to every person, family, business, and organization that added to the festive atmosphere!
A signature event to get all this going this year was Downtown Ashland Association’s "Light Up the Tracks" event on November 18th and I wanted to take a moment to share some very special appreciation from the perspective of the train passengers viewing Ashland's sparkling lights.
On December 6th, I received the following email:
Dear Mr. Mayor,
I work as an on-board service attendant for Amtrak Auto Train and I would just like to thank you and the residents of Ashland…for the lovely holiday decorations that they display. I'm not sure if the Town of Ashland really knows how much we as employees, as well as the passengers, appreciate the effort that the residents go through. I thank you; we thank you. Please pass this information along if possible.
Thanks again, Ernest
Amtrak Auto Train
I excitedly responded to Ernest the same day:
Thank you so much for your heartwarming email! Light up the Tracks started out as one citizen's idea, but it’s since become a Town-wide treasure. The goal has been to highlight Ashland as a shiny, mile-long, living Christmas card to Amtrak staff and passengers! (Freight folks too!) It's also been a perfect way for our small-town spirit to shine a welcoming glow to folks, such as you, traveling to, or through, Ashland. We love our trains and train people and believe me, your email will make everyone that much happier; more testimony on how lighting up the tracks also lights up many hearts! - Mayor Steve Trivett
And, this wasn’t the first time that Ashland’s "Season’s Greetings" was hailed to Amtrak passengers by our Amtrak friend, Ernest! Ernest was mentioned to me in an email this past May by Mike, a faithful Yellow Jacket from Randolph-Macon's Class of 1966.
I am a 1966 RMC graduate, and we return regularly for Homecoming and other events. We now live in Florida and take the Auto Train regularly to see family and friends in the area. In addition to pointing out Ashland and its decorations [Ernest and other Amtrak staff], mentioned RMC on our trip last December. We had over 500 passengers on our trip.
Mike also quoted these words from Ernest in his email:
As you know, my co-workers and I announce to our passengers when we are going through Ashland, and our passengers love it, especially during the holidays. I would just like to let them know that we appreciate all that they do.
Over the years Ashland has always embraced our train-town roots, and that has made the Center of the Universe a uniquely welcoming experience to all who ride the rails. Thank you, Ernest, and thank you to everyone throughout Ashland for your efforts to brighten the lives of others.
Heading into the New Year, though decorations will diminish and fewer lights will shine, I’m confident a special glow will persist in this community by way of individual kindness and a welcoming town spirit!
Sincerely,Mayor Steve Trivett
P.S. Coming in 2024, a certain Big Red monument will stand trackside, eye to eye with every traveler sharing in Ashland’s greetings to all. Ernest, you’re going to love it!