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!



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!


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


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.


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.



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.

Fourth of July Parade & Celebration


This quintessential small town Americana celebration takes place in Downtown Ashland each year. Join us!

The parade begins at 11am at Henry Clay Elementary School. Paraders will march the route with pets, bicycles, roller skates, period costumes, and/or musical instruments — all adorned in their best patriotic attire.

(Participants of all ages and species are welcome — simply join the lineup by 10:15am with no motorized vehicles.)

The adoring public awaits the parade finale at Hanover Arts & Activities Center (500 S. Center Street), where food, games, apple pie and pet contests will take place afterward. Plus, the Hanover Concert Band’s patriotic concert begins at 12pm.

Bring lawn chairs and a few dollars cash for the charity food concessions, and join us in Downtown Ashland for a 4th of July celebration that you will never forget!


Expert Skincare in Downtown Ashland

The Institute of Advanced Medical Esthetics is new to Downtown Ashland. Located at 405 England Street, the business is celebrating 15 years as a master esthetician school and includes a medical spa clinic.


Visit the Insitute for a special day of pampering or as part of a wellness routine. The medspa offers luxury and results-oriented skin treatments such as hydrafacials, peels, and microdermabrasion. Click here to make an appointment.

Owner Laura Todd is an expert in the field of esthetics.  She has served as a leader in the field, contributing to development of Virginia’s state regulations, standards of practice, and licensing examinations. Laura has several Advanced Esthetics textbooks in publication, and a new edition to be released in 2020.


The Institute of Advanced Medical Esthetics serves students from all over Virginia with programs to become licensed as basic and master estheticians.  As part of the students’ training, they provide skincare services to the public under the supervision of highly qualified staff. Graduates are employed in the growing medspa industry, and many operate independent businesses.

Treatments at Institute of Advanced Medical Esthetics will leave your skin glowing. The price tag will help you feel good about the experience too. Services are offered for a reduced price, in order to facilitate training of esthetic students.

Appointments are available on Sundays and Mondays. Click here to book online.

Institute of Advanced Medical Esthetics
405 England Street
Ashland, VA 23005
(804) 346-1979