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Producer, editor: Joy Flynn
Trees and Tunes
Christmas in Ashland
The 2005 holiday edition of Kentucky Life begins with a mini-tour of Christmas happenings around Ashland.
First up is the Paramount Arts Center and its Festival of Trees, which offers a dazzling array of one-of-a-kind Christmas trees decorated by professionals and amateurs alike. The trees are auctioned off after being displayed at the Paramount for a week or so in late November. Established in 1986, the festival has grown to include workshops as well as additional attractions. For 2005, those included a 52-foot model railroad display featuring a layout constructed by students at Ashland Community and Technical College, surrounded by 14 structures built from kits by community volunteers.
Host Dave Shuffett also learns a little about the history of the Paramount Arts Center from Director Kathy Timmons. The building opened in 1931 as the Paramount Theatre, a grand movie palace that was the first in the Ohio Valley to show the newfangled talking pictures. It was originally supposed to be one of 48 “perfect movie houses”—one in each state—to be built and operated by Paramount Pictures for the showing of its own movies. The Great Depression shelved those grand plans (and later, a landmark antitrust decision by the Supreme Court would forbid such vertical control of the distribution of films). But about a dozen Paramount theaters can still be found around the country.
Ashland’s is one of the grandest of them all, one of three built using a design created for the 1932 World’s Fair. Its Art Deco embellishments include elaborate murals; lots of gold, aluminum, and bronze leaf; a massive, hand-crafted brass and glass chandelier; and solid pewter mirrors in the ladies’ lounge. Many of the decorations reflect the Egyptian theme that became quite the rage after the sensational discovery of King Tut’s tomb in the 1920s.
The last movie was shown at the Paramount in 1971, and the theater closed its doors. The following year, Ashland Oil CEO Paul Blazer Jr. spearheaded an effort to purchase the building and turn it into a community arts center. Since then, the Paramount has seen several rounds of expansion and restoration—in many cases consisting of undoing previous well-meaning efforts at “modernization” that covered over the original detail work. Now an independent nonprofit organization, the center hosts a wide variety of musical, theatrical, dance, and other performances and educational events each year.
Another of Ashland’s local gathering places is Central Park, a 47-acre wooded refuge in the heart of downtown. The park offers plenty of opportunities for recreation and entertainment all year long, from an ice-skating rink to an old-fashioned bandstand. Our visit spotlights the annual Winter Wonderland of Lights, a series of 40 displays totaling more than 750,000 individual lights. It’s open throughout December, with train rides added on designated weekends.
Our visit to Ashland also includes holiday music by two local performers: harpist Margaret Vance and singer/songwriter Roger Smith.
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Producer: Valerie Trimble
On Grouper, On Flounder ...
Scuba Santa at the Newport Aquarium
If you happen to be visiting the Newport Aquarium during the holiday season, one of the sights that to your wondering eye may appear is a sleigh drawn not by tiny reinder but by horses. Seahorses, that is.
The aquarium on the Ohio River is the home of Scuba Santa, who gets around his Water Wonderland in a sleigh pulled by giant seahorses. Wearing a specially designed fur-trimmed wetsuit in the requisite bright red, Scuba Santa talks with young visitors and interacts with a giant sea turtle and various other aquarium residents—including the sharks for which the Newport Aquarium is particularly well known. The aquarium staff makes sure they’ve been well fed before Santa dives in.
The Scuba Santa dive shows started in 2003 as a way to increase attendance during what is normally a slow time of year. Year-round, the Newport Aquarium offers the chance to see more than 11,000 animals from around the world, including up-close views from inside 200 feet of transparent tunnels. Kentucky Life previously visited the aquarium in Program 705.
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Chilly Scenes of Winter
This edition ends with a musical montage of Christmas lights and winter scenes shot around Dave’s home in Franklin County. Local children and Kentucky Life’s two canine co-hosts, Sadie and Charlie, can be seen enjoying a romp in the newfallen snow.
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