Hidden in Plain Sight: 5 Things to Uncover in Downtown Ashland

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1. MYSTERY

Since its founding in 1858, Ashland has been Richmond’s playground. Lurking just below the surface are secret tales of mystery and intrigue.

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Ashland Haunted History Tours offers a guided evening walk of Downtown Ashland each Friday and Saturday night, while your guide weaves tales of the macabre past and present to delight audiences of all ages.

Red Vein Escape invites you to play the team-building game “Hunt for the Richmond Vampire”. Can your team defeat a legendary subterranean demon of the night?

2. TECHNOLOGY

Downtown Ashland hosts the secret worlds of both Pokemon GO and Wizards Unite. There are lots of Gyms and Poke Stops or Inns, Greenhouses and Fortresses scattered throughout downtown.

Below is a three-mile walk (just enough to open a Portkey Portmanteau) suggested by local aficionado, Margie Gausby. Pokemon and Foundables are everywhere, plus unique local shops and restaurants to visit along the route.

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 3. HISTORY

Downtown Ashland puts its history on display, with historic architecture, public art, and museums. But there is always more than meets the eye!

Ashland Museum offers free walking tours of Downtown Ashland and the historic district. Call ahead to arrange for a local historian to walk the route with you, or download the Ashland, Virginia app from iTunes or Google Play for a self-guided version. The tour will help you to see hidden nuances of the town and its history.

Photo courtesy of Ashland Museum.

Photo courtesy of Ashland Museum.

 4. RAIL

More than 60 freight and passenger trains pass through the heart of Downtown Ashland each day using hidden communications. You can listen in by phone at (712) 432-4216, stream number 405 or on the web at railroadradio.net. Hear the engineers live, and predict the next train coming down our track.

Afterward, stop into Tiny Tim’s Trains & Toys to see modern and historic model trains. The railfans on staff can help you learn more secrets of the rails.

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5. BICYCLE

Downtown Ashland is a hidden gem for cyclists of any ability.

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The United States’ two cross-country bicycle trails, Route 1 and Route 76, intersect here. Whether you wish to cycle for an afternoon or a week, Downtown Ashland is the best place to start!

Don’t miss fresh food and strong coffee at two cycling hotspots, Ashland Coffee & Tea and The Caboose Café & Market. You’re likely to find fellow cycling enthusiasts from the Richmond Area Bicycling Association in both restaurants. The group hosts weekly rides in and around Downtown Ashland, learn more here.

You've Been Noticed

Downtown Ashland Association volunteers and Town of Ashland leaders gathered on July 31, 2019 to celebrate Shear Power’s contributions to revitalizing Downtown Ashland. We proudly presented the salon a “You’ve Been Noticed” Award.

Front Row: Shear Power team members Brooke Terrell, Christy Wamsley, Cindi Small, and Sandra Lacy    Back Rows: (left to right) Town Council Member Kathy Abbott, Paul Warren, Bill McElroy, Maggie Longest, Cathy Bach, Ann Martin, Nora Amos, Lorie Foley, Town Council Member Dan McGraw, Annette Schanz, Bill Gatewood, Lauren Thompson

Front Row: Shear Power team members Brooke Terrell, Christy Wamsley, Cindi Small, and Sandra Lacy

Back Rows: (left to right) Town Council Member Kathy Abbott, Paul Warren, Bill McElroy, Maggie Longest, Cathy Bach, Ann Martin, Nora Amos, Lorie Foley, Town Council Member Dan McGraw, Annette Schanz, Bill Gatewood, Lauren Thompson

During the celebration, the following letter of recognition was presented to the Shear Power team:

July 31, 2019

Brooke Terrell
Shear Power
202A England Street
Ashland, VA 23005

Dear Ms. Terrell and the Shear Power team,

 The Downtown Ashland Association congratulates Shear Power on the recent renovation of 202A England Street. What was once an empty store front is now a welcoming salon. We recognize your contribution to revitalization of our community.

 Shear Power has a long and lasting relationship with Ashland. Lou Wilder founded Shear Power and developed it into a vibrant, much-loved salon. Life-long friend Brooke Terrell took ownership and continued the warm feeling of Shear Power as a gathering place--where you happen to get a really good hair cut too.

The Shear Power team, Christy, Cindy, Sandra, Mark and Brooke, welcome the clientele with laughs, sympathy when needed, a good story here and there, and always great professional service. The salon serves as a hub of our community.

Shear Power took on a significant renovation of 202A England Street. The dated, empty store front received new flooring, wall coverings, window framing, paint, and décor. Brooke’s $17,000 investment created an even larger effect in the commercial space.

Downtown Ashland Association recognizes Shear Power’s contribution to the design and economic vitality of Downtown Ashland. Further, we recognize Shear Power as a important part of our community. We are grateful for your business investment and for your work every day.

 Sincerely yours,

 Lorie Foley, President

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Volunteer of the Year

Bill Gatewood is an extraordinary volunteer and Ashland community member. On July 24, he was named Virginia Main Street Volunteer of the Year. As seen in the video above, Bill’s volunteerism with Downtown Ashland Association brought the statewide accolade.

Gatewood serves as Chair of Ashland Train Day, a street festival that celebrates Ashland’s love for trains on the first Saturday of November each year. Additionally, he has led Downtown Ashland Association as President and on the Board of Directors since 2012. A retired police sergeant, Gatewood spent nearly 30 years at Ashland Police Department. He is a dedicated public servant, in and out of uniform.

Bill and Cindy Gatewood volunteering at Ashland Train Day

Bill and Cindy Gatewood volunteering at Ashland Train Day

“Bill is the heart and soul of Ashland Train Day,” says Lorie Foley, President of the Downtown Ashland Association. He oversees every aspect, including food vendors, entertainment, sanitation, kiddie trains, signage, history, marketing, public safety, parking, volunteers, and cleanup. Under his leadership, the event grew from a small celebration held inside Ashland Library, to a street festival throughout Downtown Ashland. More than 10,000 people attended Ashland Train Day in 2018.

Gatewood devotes over 400 hours of planning and work for Ashland Train Day each year. One can only imagine the total number of hours Bill has volunteered throughout his tenure. When asked about the workload, his wife Cindy Gatewood states, “It never really stops. Even though July through November is when most of the organizing happens, whenever we go anywhere Bill is always looking for new ideas to improve Train Day.” 

Gatewood explains that he loves the event because “Train Day represents Ashland; so many kids and men and women love trains and what Train Day represents. So, I see it as a way to give back to the town and community.”

It was Bill who first proposed sponsorship of Ashland Train Day to Downtown Ashland Association in 2012. The Board of Directors agreed to take on responsibility for hosting the annual event, so long as Bill joined its ranks. He served for nearly seven years, including as President for 2016 and 2017. 

DHCD Director Erik Johnston and Virginia Main Street Volunteer of the Year Bill Gatewood

DHCD Director Erik Johnston and Virginia Main Street Volunteer of the Year Bill Gatewood

Beyond his involvement with Downtown Ashland Association, Bill serves the community by organizing special events. He serves on the board of Ashland Strawberry Faire and organizes annual Easter and Christmas events for children in Ashland and the Richmond region.

“Bill’s impact on our downtown district is immense.  He is our hero because he is organized, dependable and always cheerful,” says Lorie Foley. “Bill is great at thinking about the little things--the things no one else would ever think about--when putting an event together. And he is a people-person; he can light up a room.”

Cindy Gatewood agrees, “Bill has always been a go-getter and when he sees something that needs to get done, he does it.”

Upon receiving the Virginia Main Street Volunteer of the Year Award, Bill simply stated that he is “happy to have the opportunity to give back,” and “glad I can put smiles on the faces of so many.” Downtown Ashland Association thanks Bill Gatewood for his commitment to our community.

Ashland Train Day Awarded 2019 Commemoration Finale Grant

Photo: Diane Stoakley

Photo: Diane Stoakley

Downtown Ashland Association has been awarded a 2019 Commemoration Finale Grant for Ashland Train Day. Train Day, now in its 16th year and one of Downtown Ashland Association’s signature events, is a free and family-friendly festival that draws thousands of visitors to Ashland’s historic downtown each year. Ashland Train Day 2019 will take place Saturday, November 2nd from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm.

“Downtown Ashland Association is thrilled to receive this support, especially in light of our recent re-branding efforts and expanded mission to encourage tourism downtown,” said Maggie Longest, Executive Director of Downtown Ashland Association.

Photo: Diane Stoakley

Photo: Diane Stoakley

The 2019 Commemoration, American Evolution Finale Grants were awarded for 16 events statewide taking place in November. Ashland Train Day and other recipients will be promoted as part of the Virginia Customs, Cultures and Cuisine Festival. The program is administered by Virginia Tourism Corporation.

Through a partnership with The Hanover County Black Heritage Society and the Ashland Museum, Downtown Ashland Association will utilize the grant to launch new permanent exhibits that focus on Virginia’s railway evolution and history, the impact on Virginia’s towns and communities, and stories of local and state railway figures. In addition, a scavenger hunt will bring the evolution of Virginia’s railroads and trackside communities to life for participants of all ages.

“Through these new exhibits, we hope to encourage our visitors to look deeper at the resulting social communities, laborers, travelers, tycoons, and towns,” Longest added. “The Hanover County Black Heritage Society will showcase the impact of railway development in the black community to highlight the experiences of African Americans who worked, and were impacted by the rail industry, including laborers, porters and travelers.”

Photo: Diane Stoakley

Photo: Diane Stoakley

The month-long Virginia Customs, Cultures and Cuisine Festival, presented by TowneBank, will be filled with local, regional and statewide events honoring early Virginia history with cultures and styles that have shaped America over 400 years. This special capstone to the 2019 Commemoration will foster statewide participation, tourism, marketing and promotion, and public events to create a contemporary experience for all ages.

The Virginia Customs, Culture and Cuisine Festival is a strategic part of the larger 2019 Commemoration, that recognizes the 400th anniversary of pivotal 1619 Virginia events that forever changed the trajectory of Virginia and America’s history. These 1619 events include the first official English Thanksgiving in North America, the arrival of the first recorded Africans to English North America, the recruitment of English women in significant numbers to the Virginia colony, the launch of entrepreneurship and innovation in the Commonwealth and more.

We look forward to welcoming you for Ashland Train Day 2019 on November 2nd!

Ashland by Bike: Family-Friendly Itinerary for Summer Fun

Enjoy summer fun with the whole family and explore Downtown Ashland by bike. With trails, shaded streets, and an array of exciting family-friendly stops, we have your pedal-by-pedal guide to taking in all that Ashland has to offer!

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1. PEDAL POWER

Check out the Trains & Brains two-mile bike route. Beginning at Ashland Train Station, follow the tracks north to a designated bike trail and past Railside Park. On the return trip, you’ll pedal the shady streets of Randolph-Macon College. Make sure you stop to enjoy the fountain plaza!

2. SWEET STOP

When you’ve finished the route, it’s a quick jaunt along England Street to sweetFrog for frozen yogurt. The business is tucked into one of Downtown Ashland’s historic properties at 210 England Street, originally built for the Ashland Ice Company in 1921. How fitting!

Image courtesy of    Kiwanis Club of Ashland

Image courtesy of Kiwanis Club of Ashland

3. CLIMB HIGH

Refreshed and refueled, you can pedal west to Kiwanis Pufferbelly Park and enjoy the expansive new playground. Kids can test their skills at the skate park, or find creative ways to climb the spider web and merry-go-round. Little ones will enjoy swings, slides, and a sandbox in the shade.

4. ORDER UP

Once you have conquered the park, cross the street to Sports Page Grill for your choice of American fare. The restaurant honors local youth and college sports teams, alongside televised professional sports.

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5. CATCH A SHOW

For the finale, pedal to Ashland Theatre to catch the 7pm movie. July 19 through August 8, see Disney’s the Lion King in its new live-action version with a celebrity cast (buy tickets here). Spending the evening at the fully-renovated historic theatre is a perfect capstone to an Ashland adventure.