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 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.
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.