Centre of the universe?
Folks from Ashland, Virginia like to think of themselves as the centre of the universe. They are definitely at the geographic centre of Hanover County, Virginia. Former mayor Dick Gillis came with the slogan in the 1980s supposedly because it was close to the mountains, the beach, Richmond, and D.C. It is right along the railroad line and it is a college town: home to Randolph-Macon University. Many in the rest of Hanover County believe Ashlanders like to think of itself as more cosmopolitan and urbane read: better than the rest of the county. In the autumn of 2008, Peter Greenberg wrote a book "Don't Go There! The Travel Detective's Essential Guide to the Must-Miss Places of the World" and included beloved Ashland under Lamest Claims to Fame. Of course Ashlanders were up in arms, demanding equal time to state the town's case on the same programme. While Greenberg's comments may have ruffled the feathers of Ashlanders, when put in context it makes sense. He said in the Today show interview, "I think it's (Ashland is) a nice place, but the point is, when you have hyperbolic overly stated claims that's a red flag to me." I will give Ashland its due for its fine architecture and more fine dining opportunities for a town this size, but I hardly think it is better than anywhere else in Hanover County...or the universe.
You, too, can be in a Fourth of July parade, or just watch it. Ashland's Old Time 4th of July Celebration typically begins with a parade down Center St. The one basic rule is no motorized vehicles, so you'll see lots of bikes, rollerskates, lawn chair marching units, croquet teams, pony carts, dogs, etc. If you want to add your own group or join one that is already forming, just come to the staging field. The parade route is always beside the Amtrak/CSX railroad track, so even rail travellers can enjoy the fun as they ride by.
The route ends at the 19th Century church that is now the Hanover Arts and Activities Center, where the fun continues: usually a concert by the the Hanover community band, children's games, an apple pie contest, hot dogs and ice cream, and more. Everything finishes up with plenty of time to relax in case you want to go watch the fireworks in Richmond or Montpelier later at dark.
- Road Trip
Farmers' Market on Saturdays
The Farmers' Market just off England/Thompson St behind the Town Hall occurs every Saturday morning from late Spring through Fall. All the growers must be based in Hanover County, and it's a small, friendly place to visit and buy some flowers, eggs, herbs, fruits or vegetables.
If you are visiting Ashland on a Saturday morning, I suggest you go have a coffeehouse breakfast at Ashland Coffee and Tea and then walk one block west to the market.
- Road Trip
It is the middle of September and it is Saturday and it is Ashland.... must be Party Time.
The annual block party in Ashland is a fun time for residents and visitors.
Live music from several state and local groups; food by The Smokey Pig and Sullivan's Pub; lots of dancing in the street. There are children's activities like moonwalk jumping cage and airbrushed tattoos.
Gates open at 4pm and cost is $10 ($5 for kids). Music begins at 7pm and lasts until 10pm. Beer and wine are on sale (do NOT bring your own) and an ID is required. Bring lawn chairs if you want to sit and rest!
- Road Trip
Liberal enclave in a conservative county
Ashland has always been more liberal than the surrounding (very conservative) Hanover County. One would not know that a sleepy railroad town would be any different. The main reasons for this are Randolph-Macon College and a larger black community. Liberation-minded student proletariats always make university towns at least a little more liberal. In Ashland, you could see stickers like the one in the photo warning against dumping anything into storm drains because they empty into the Chesapeake Bay.
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The Ashland Strawberry Faire is a community tradition featuring the annual strawberry harvest. The Faire is usually the first Saturday in June. It is held on the streets right next to to the Randolph Macon College campus. The Faire is a free community, family event. There are vendors selling arts, crafts, plants, and antiques to those who come. Among the many fun things are two stages. They feature entertainment from brass and jazz bands, choirs, dancing, pipes and drums, to Little Miss and Little Mr. Strawberry contests and much more. The little nippers can participate in activities from face painting to dunking booths to strawberry pie eating contests. My friends Lee, Robbie, and I went up there Saturday 4 June 2005 to attend the festival. There, we ran across quite a lot of people we knew including my travel agent.
- Arts and Culture
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