Dear Stacey,

On behalf of everyone in our cozy, growing community, I would like to welcome you and your family to Ashland. I think you’re really going to like it here.

Travis Naughton

When I read your post on Facebook’s “Ashland/Hartsburg Swap Shop” page asking people’s recommendations for pediatricians, dentists, vets, and children’s activities for a family brand new to the area, I knew that my comment would not be the only one you would receive. In fact, I counted 37 comments posted within the first few hours after your query. As you will soon learn, the folks in and around Ashland are a welcoming, friendly, and helpful bunch.

The Southern Boone area has changed a lot since my wife and I were first welcomed here in 1999. Back then, the population posted on the city limit sign indicated that there were 1,252 residents living in Ashland. When the next census is taken a couple years from now, the population may top 5,000.

Late 20th century Ashland had a few gas stations, a couple local eateries, and a beloved but tired grocery store. Early 21st century Ashland now boasts businesses such as McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Subway, Dollar General, Moser’s Foods, New China Restaurant, Skyline Café, Shiver’s Shaved Ice, and many others.

The old Ashland had a single K-12 school building that had outlived its usefulness and was eventually torn down, despite some nostalgic protestations. Now there are four outstanding schools serving the Southern Boone district’s 1,500 students. I substitute teach at the primary school frequently, and I can guarantee you that your children will love being SoBoCo Eagles.

Ashland also has a lovely city park, a community swimming pool, a fantastic library, a YMCA, several great churches, some wonderful civic organizations, a popular rodeo, a Fourth of July parade, a respected police department, a courageous fire department, its own ambulance service, and a locally-owned and operated newspaper. But the very best thing the Ashland area has going for it is its people.

I proudly witnessed the people of Ashland lining both sides of Broadway as they waved American flags and welcomed home Travis Banning when he returned from military service in the Middle East a couple years ago. And I stood and cried with those same people as they lined that same stretch of road to grieve with the family of Alexandra and Brayden Anderson, two beautiful children, as their funeral procession passed through town.

Ashland is a generous community. Fundraisers for residents who have fallen ill, the Buddypack program for hungry kids, and canned-food and book drives are but a few of the acts of kindness regularly demonstrated here.

Ours is an accepting community, too. It would be easy for the 1,200 or so people who were living here in the 1990s to resent the influx of new residents like you and me. With new citizens come new ideas and often differing viewpoints. Yet despite the fact that I am an outspoken Democrat, a parent of immigrant children, an advocate of LGBTQ rights, a recovering alcoholic, an atheist, and an eccentric builder of strange musical instruments, people here always treat me with respect and genuine compassion—no matter their background or political affiliation. I don’t know if there’s any small town other than Ashland where a liberal newspaper columnist can fire-off a 700-word piece about wanting to tear down every confederate flag he sees yet still be warmly welcomed by his auto mechanic friend who has the stars and bars proudly hanging by the rafters of his garage. If the nation is truly as divided as some people say it is, there’s little evidence of it here in Ashland.

Stacey, you and your family are now members of the Southern Boone family. We’re a growing family, but we are still small enough to look after one another and take care of each other. Don’t hesitate to reach out again if there’s ever anything you need.

Welcome to Ashland!

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