When Peter took to the Today show yesterday to discuss his book, he mentioned the town of Ashland, Virginia and its slogan, “The Center of the Universe.”
It seems that, spurred by an article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Ashland’s residents, admirers and detractors, have engaged in a heated battle over the town, its attractions–and its slogan.
So what did Peter say that got this town so riled up? Well, here’s what he said to Today‘s national audience…
Being interviewed by Today‘s Amy Robach, Peter was asked about Ashland’s claim to be the “Center of the Universe.”
Peter’s response: “Slight exaggeration here. It’s near Richmond, VA, but you know what, I don’t think they got the memo [about slogans]. It’s not even the center of Virginia. I mean, stop! … Don’t have a slogan because it makes you have a slogan, have it make sense.”
Since then, according to the Times-Dispatch, Ashland residents have been fired up. Ashland Mayor Faye O. Prichard described this as a “slam” and added that “some people will do anything to make a buck.”
So does Peter deserve this scorn? Well, here’s the entirety of the description of Ashland in Don’t Go There!:
“Unless you can chart the entire universe and pinpoint Ashland, this city’s claim to be the ‘Center of the Universe’ has its flaws. And if it’s true, then God has a wicked sense of humor indeed.”
Nearly six pages of comments have gone back and forth on the issue, with some deriding Peter’s analysis and others going much further in slamming Ashland than Peter ever did. Check ’em out below:
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 05:11 AM by Anonymous
If you call a clean, safe town with outgoing and very hospitable folks a bad place to visit, you must not get out much. I have relatives in Ashland and my family enjoys visiting the shops and restaurants. The town has numerous activities to persue and enjoy. I believe Ashland would be a great town to raise a family if you are the type of person that believes in morals and a strong family bond. I think Greenberg should probably visit a location before writing a story!
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 05:05 AM by L. Johnson
Maybe he was pulled over 4 or 5 times by the Hanover Sheriff’s Office. Or, maybe he had to wait 4 or 5 light cycles at 360 and Bell Creek Road. He’s saying don’t go because it’ll be difficult getting there!
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 05:03 AM by Anonymous
Ashland needs to get over itself. There are limited things to do if you are looking for a vacation destination.
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 04:55 AM by hahahahah
When I think of Ashland, I think of drunk, dirty backwoods rednecks who cant read with jacked up teeth and tore up sofas in front of their trailors. Not saying this about all of hanover, which is pretty nice, but ASHLAND itself is a dump.
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 04:47 AM by Curtis
I think Ashland’s tag “Center of the Universe” is misunderstood. It is not the center of the universe for everyone; it is the center of Ashlanders’ universe and is a testament to community. A community should be judged by its fabric, not the applique of shops and restaurants, and in that respect, Ashland is a pair of old jeans, well-worn and well-loved.
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 04:29 AM by Anonymous
Greenburg’s an idiot. He probably does his “research” on the internet and doesn’t travel anywhere.
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 04:26 AM by Hal
Ashland is nice, has RMC and a couple of places to eat. If you are in Richmond it is ok, but to make a special trip there if you are taveling, forget it. Hal
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 04:25 AM by Sr. Ugarte
Just as mention on the late Mr. Blackwell’s “Worst Dressed” list was a mark of achievement, being included on this list is an honor for Ashland, raising its profile. It likely will provoke more interest and exploration than avoidance.
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 04:22 AM by Deborah
What I want to know is: Why is this front-page news? Slow news day for the T-D? And, who watches NBC these days? As an Ashland home-owner and resident, I’m glad Mr. Greenberg and others of his ilk won’t be visiting.
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 04:12 AM by Anonymous
His comments are spot on. The Center of the Universe is really a black hole. Ashland is a dull, boring place with little to offer the traveler or vacationer. Sure, it’s a “railroad town”, only because the most excitement is watching the freight trains roll through. Their “Main Street” is a joke, with nothing unique, or even ineteresting, about their shops or restaurants.
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 03:28 AM by robbiel_530
I travel to Ashland all the time and other than a few places to eat, what’s there? I must agree with the reporter on this story.
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 02:28 AM by Anonymous
Mr. Greenburg appears to suffer from a lack of perspective, history, beauty, and a long list of other admirable traits. Ashland is a magnificent town surrounded by an even more outstanding Hanover County. I remember when NBC used to be one of the nation’s outstanding broadcast networks, but, alas, it has deteriorated as such while Ashland had only become a more wonderful town and is getting better with each passing year.
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 01:44 AM by A YJacket is My Better Half
Your article does not state anything negative about Ashland per Greenberg. Give us more information.
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 01:09 AM by Bonk
Ashland is fine like it is.
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 12:00 AM by firstname.lastname@example.org
hah, while it might not be the worst place to visit, it definately isnt the best. Be fortunate that a person of color wasn’t conducting the survey instead, then they would’ve added how racist and prejudice Hanover county really. Just the facts ma’am, just the facts.
Posted November 11, 2008 @ 10:42 PM by ComeOnMan
Ashland BLOWS! The main attraction is the town train tracks. It is NOT the center of the universe. New York City is!
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 06:01 AM by Anonymous
GREAT! WE NEED MORE REVIEWS LIKE THAT!Please stay at home and out of Virginia. Too many people in one spot spoils everything. Ashland used to be nice until it was overrun by developers.
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 05:57 AM by co fan
Remove Ashland Coffee & Tea and I see nothing special about this town. (But I do love AC&T) Much of the original retail space is empty, and newer retail is ugly neon. (to get the attention of those passing by on I-95 I suppose) I’ve never felt the parks were especially well maintained. The people are friendlier than most Richmonders, but that is not saying much.
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 05:54 AM by Anonymous
Who in the world would go on vacation to Ashland anyway, much less anywhere around the Metro Richmond area? It’s funny that Ashland is even mentioned in a travel guide. Of course, I live here, but if I didn’t, I wouldn’t vacation here! Ashland is a rundown and dirty little town anyway. The only thing they have is a Ponderosa with a bunch of old hicks eating dinner and a bunch of old buildings.
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 05:48 AM by Anonymous
Could it be Ashland’s, and to a certain extent Virginia’s well known penchant for taking itself, and comments made about it waaaaay to seriously?
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 05:47 AM by Anonymous
Ashland/Hanover is full of predjudice people including the police so thats what you’ll get. I don’t like going through Hanover/Ashland even if I’m on 95 or 295, too many dirty looks.
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 05:47 AM by Anonymous
I am surprised the Mr. Greenberg wouldn’t tell the truth. It was as if he wanted to be nice about it. Ashland for vacation? Seriously? This article shows how stupid the citizens of this town are.
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 05:46 AM by Anonymous
ashland is a small, laid back town. that’s the attraction, that’s why people live here. if you don’t like it stay in new york.
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 05:40 AM by Max
Well, God has a wicked sense of humor, doesn’t he?
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 05:21 AM by Bill
Dear Ashland, Some people describe this brand of humor as being “tongue in cheek”. Your anger over this amplifies the perception of your ignorance and is likely more of a deterrent than the book to having people visit your town.
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 05:11 AM by Anonymous
i think it’s kind of amusing actually. if you call yourself “the center of the universe” you’re bound to get some reaction. ashland was a sitting duck. sorry, folks.
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 07:05 AM by Anonymous
For all of you (including Greenberg) that think Ashland is just a small hick town with nothing to do – “keep your tails out of here”. We don’t ask you to visit here or spend money in our “little shops”. We take care of our community ourselves. We don’t need outsiders coming in forming THEIR opinions on something they no nothing about! I have lived here all my life and am PROUD of my community! “GET A LIFE and find something else more constructive to write about!” Are you bored or just ignorant?
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 07:03 AM by Anonymous
When I read this quote in the article, I had to chuckle!! “Maybe he didn’t get off on the right interchange,” Watson said. Honestly, if you’ve got to get off at “the right interchange” to find something interesting, it’s probably NOT a good tourist destination. And there really is no sin in some author pointing that out. Maybe it will be a catalyst to help Ashland change, if they are actually trying to be a tourist destination.
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 06:38 AM by WWG
I like Ashland. Nice little town and nice people. I agree, it’s not a tourist destination – which is a big reason I’m drawn to Ashland. I’m perfectly okay with Ashland being listed as a place to avoid. Keeps the out-of-towner’s and tourists away.
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 06:38 AM by Anonymous
So typical, I haven’t heard anyone from Ashland even suggest that maybe they themselves could research why it got this travel writer’s attention. Maybe then they could address the things that are perceived as being undesirable and work to fix them, seriously why does everything have to be an attack, why not use it as free research & development and be all the better for it. Can’t always see the trees through the…
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 06:31 AM by Anonymous
I think his assessment is spot-on. Aside from RMC and Ashland Coffee & Tea, there really isn’t anything special about the place. And why does everyone “love” the Smokey Pig?! I’ve had way better BBQ from B&L’s store in Bumpass!! I agree with most comments that the residents need to get over themselves and not take it so seriously. If the same was said about Montpelier (where I now live & my hometown), I’d agree all the same! Move on Ashlanders!!
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 06:19 AM by Anonymous
Is Ashland actually trying to promote itself as a tourist destination? If so, they probably deserve a little ridicule, since they are surrounded by so many larger and more popular destinations. Let’s get real, how does a town that you can tour in less than 2 hours really stand up to places like DC and Williamsburg? But if the author was just going through, saw the slogan and thought it was funny so included it in his book for fun, you all really ought to be thanking him for the free advertising.
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 06:18 AM by Richmond Rules
I agree with this writer completely. Ashland needs a reality check- they have nothing to offer. We need to remove the train station from that hole in the ground in order to provide efficient service to the remainder of Richmond. I wouldn’t mind blowing by Ashland in a high speed train.
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 06:12 AM by Anonymous
I don’t know why anyone has to write a book like that, but Greenberg is exactly right. Ashland is full of snobby, arrogant idiots who think they are better than everyone else. Before I moved to Richmond I did the tourist thing in Ashland. Lasted about 20 minutes. I made the mistake of telling someone I was looking for a house in Ashland. I got a huffy “Oh” for an answer. Ashland certainly deserves to be on that list.
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 06:08 AM by csmith
Sorry Ashland your feelings may have been hurt but there really isn’t anything there to do. Where are the the neat shops your talk about? Restaurants there are a couple but that is it. Now pick yourself up and worry about something that is more important.
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 06:03 AM by plizo
Mr. Greenberg is right on target! The people of Ashland are arrogant and myopic. Their egocentrism is unparalleled.
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 08:14 AM by Anonymous
Sounds like he’s been there! Very true ..
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 08:08 AM by AshlandRes
Lets get it straight, Ashland is not a dump, a black hole or anything else you would like to call it. We have plenty of restaruants, beside Cracker Barrel, you just have to explore and have fun in Ashland and find them. There are a wide range of shops and things to do here. Is Ashland for everyone, no, but what place is. The residents of Ashland and about every place you go will threat you with respect and are friendly, thats our nature! Get off the interstate and explore Ashland, you’ll be amaz
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 07:57 AM by Ashland Girl
I believe Mr. Greenberg is short sighted and reckless in his assessment of Ashland. To dismiss Ashland is to dismiss a potion of history, good or bad that led to the founding of this great nation. Ashland has taken great effort to maintain a number of historic structures that lend insights in the minds and hearts our our founding fathers. True Ashland may not be an exciting vacation destination, but as a child I did not particularly enjoy Gettysburg either. I certainly appreciate it now.
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 07:54 AM by Anonymous
Ashland is a dump. I’m glad it’s official now.
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 07:41 AM by Anonymous
I wouldnt make Ashland a travel destination in my book. You can drive the whole town in about 15 minutes and for attractions, there are none.
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 07:33 AM by landensgma
I’ve worked in Ashland for 4 1/2 years now, and the people here are some of the sweetest people you ever want to meet! I work directly across the street from Randolph Macon College, and right next door to the historic Henry Clay Inn, and just out the front door is the Ashland Visitor’s Center, sitting next to the railroad tracks, where so many come to sit and watch the trains go by. There is so much history in and around Ashland. This man is sadly mistaken with his remarks about Ashland!
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 07:24 AM by knnpat804
Wow are you guys serious?
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 07:14 AM by Donk
Ashland needs to be more like Short Pump. Overdeveloped, traffic jams.
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 07:11 AM by MsB
People in Ashland need to get a life! It is what it is. What is there that would make it a tourist attraction?…NOTHING! Truth hurts! Negative publicity is better than none. It may even bring a few curiosity seekers.
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 07:10 AM by RUSERIOUS
Come on,people cant really be upset about this right?Ashland is a pit full of nothing, some people may like that crap but as far as a vacation destination,there is not one single person on earth who can honestly say that a family from California should pack up & come spend their vacation in Ashland?!What would they do for more then 2 hours??Its old & dirty & as the fact that this is even a news worthy story shows,people in Ashland think they are so dang special!Just rich rednecks if you ask me!
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 09:10 AM by Anonymous
Ashland may not be a Mecca for travelers, but it’s good places to live. If you want the excitement of New York or Los Angeles, skip Ashland. If you can stand a slow pace, take exit 92. We have historic houses, a few good places to eat, and Randolph-Macon College. We may not be the most progressive town in the U.S., but I’d say Obama took Ashland! A former Mayor coined the “Center of the Universe” because we are between DC and Richmond, the mountains and the beach, etc.
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 09:00 AM by Anonymous
Maybe he had a run-in with Ashland’s finest while he was there. They’re draconian about policing that pimple on the map of Virginia.
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 08:43 AM by Kimberly
Let me finish… Many actors and TV personalites, other than Matt Lauer, have visited, shopped and stayed in Ashland. Just to name a few, Bruce Willis, Demi Moore, Damian Wayans, Oprah Winfrey, Sarah Palin, The Temptations, Conway Twitty, and Mark Werner. As far as the comment made by RUSERIOUS, maybe you should take the time to learn the history of the town instead of imature name calling. I have traveled many places and I am always glad to come home to Ashland, Virginia
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 08:41 AM by Anonymous
Ashland has a fantastic Walmart!
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 08:30 AM by comeonppl
Face it…there is nothing do anywhere in VA other than the beach and williamsburg (which aint hittin on much either). What does Ashland have to offer? Nothin..but neither does the west end, chesterfield, RIC or anywhere else around here.
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 08:29 AM by Kimberly
OK… Here is the thing, if have grown up in Ashland and lived here all of your life you would understand how special this town is. To outsiders it might look like a small quiet town with nothing to do. Well, if people would take the time to learn a litte info about the town, they would see that Ashland has a lot of history and a lot of things to offer. There have been several movies filmed directly on the tracks and the town as been featured in several books.
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 08:22 AM by jade
blah blah blah. Ashland sucks, so does everywhere else in VA. Why would anyone want to come and vacation here? Other than williamsburg, there isnt a darn thing here worth traveling for. Get over it Ashland people and everyone else. VA sucks, Ashland sucks, end of freakin story.
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 08:18 AM by Anonymous
As a person who has recently moved to live in Ashland, I have to agree with most posts and this article. It is a great place to raise a family, with great people and a small town feel, but not a tourist destination. Nothing to entertain for a prolonged period. I still do get looked down upon because we are “new” Ashlanders and not generational. It is a great town to stop on your way to a real tourist destination. Better that way, less people to crowd the beautiful old places.
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 08:15 AM by Anonymous
IF the Times Disgrace actually did anything resembling REAL reporting – they would have investigated how Ashland came to be known as “The Center of The Universe” and included that in this story. And it isn’t a charming story about the powers that be in Ashland, either….. There are a number of good people there, like most places, but also quite a number who are hyped up and over-impressed with their own self-importance (refer to the Walmart controversy) – research the story, Reporter!
Posted November 12, 2008 @ 08:15 AM by Anonymous
The real thing to avoid is the book. It was obviously written to make money and draw attention to the author. Although Ashland isn’t a place I’d view as a tourist destination other than as part of greater central Va. it also isn’t some sort of dump either.I agree that it’s likely this man never set foot in Ashland or the other places he condemned. Solution: DO NOT BUY THE BOOK!…and go on with your lives.Books like this are like a disease.Nobody needs one unless you make money from it.