Beautiful weather helped the living nativity ride-through show in Hammond draw a record crowd, reports the Associated Press. “One Night in Bethlehem” usually brings more than 5,000 visitors — but this year, more than 6,000 rode the four flatbeds set up with rails and benches, coordinator Dana Sartin told The Star.
She said nearly half of them had never been to the show, Calvary Christian Center puts on as an outreach ministry. Each wagon carries about 60 people past a dozen scenes, starting with the prophet Isaiah foretelling the birth of the Messiah and progressing through the angel’s appearance to Mary and Joseph, Augustus Ceasar’s order of taxation and the birth of the Jesus. It ends with a modern Christmas scene and a speech by Pastor Michael Bush in front of three crosses and an empty tomb.
The rides were scheduled to close at 8:30 p.m., but so many people came on the Sunday before Christmas that it took until 10:40 p.m. to get everyone through, Sartin said.
She said says families came from as far as New Iberia and Mississippi.
The church has held the event since 2007.
In August, church members began helping with costumes, construction, lighting, acting and all the other parts. By the time the entire production was finished, between 200 and 250 people had helped.
“We put a lot of work and a lot of construction into all these sets,” Sartin said. “It’s taken a lot of the talents in the church to put this together.”
She said the production is more than worth it. Families consistently express appreciation of the opportunity to teach their children the true meaning of Christmas, and many families have made it a Christmas tradition, she said.
“This is the biggest outreach we’ve ever done,” she said. “We feel God’s entrusted us with this. It pulls our church together.”