By Dale Woodard - Lethbridge Herald on December 22, 2021.
After a year away, the Live Nativity from the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints is ready to take centre stage once again.
The COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to the production in 2020, but this week the Live Nativity is back Wednesday through Friday, continuing the tradition of 35 years of outdoor performances on the south side at 4510 Forestry Avenue.
That will include a rotating cast with multiple shows each night, complete with live animals including Chico the donkey, who has been a part of the production for roughly 12 years.
Admission is free with bleachers set up for the spectators and the shows running every 20 minutes from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
This year’s production is led by nativity directors Merrill and Joy Steed.
“We have about 20 in the cast for each night,” said Joy. “We have three different casts. There are a lot of people who have volunteered from our church. They just like doing it.”
After the pandemic cancelled last year’s Live Nativity, the decision was made last month to get on with the show this Christmas.
“They weren’t sure if they were going to do it because of COVID, but then in November they decided they wanted to go ahead with it,” said Joy.
Like any outdoor production in the winter, weather plays a factor. Joy recalled past years where the Live Nativity performed in minus -25 Celcius weather.
“If you have a really cold and windy night then you’re not going to get as many people,” said Merrill. “But it’s cold, people still come. It’s only 20 minutes. We’ll have bleachers here and some bales to sit on so they’re up close.”
On Saturday, the cast began rehearsals at 10 a.m. with each one practising for two hours.
“Some people have done it before,” said Merrill. “So it makes it easy. They’re used to it and they help out the other cast members.”
The assembling of the outdoor scene began last week.
“That took a good four or five hours,” said Merrill.
More setup will take place this week, added Joy.
“Just getting the bleachers and the lighting set up will be a few more hours.”
On Wednesday, the Live Nativity tradition will return as it has for three-and-a-half decades.
“The whole point of this is to bring a focus on what Christmas is all about, which is the spirit of Christ and peace that can happen in people’s lives,” said Merrill. “If people get a feel of that and a sense of that then I think that’s what is important.”
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