1,100 Creche sets displayed

MESA, Ariz. — Set in an 86-year-old Spanish-style LDS meetinghouse here, the sixth annual Christmas Nativity Display pleased young and old alike with its nearly 1,100 creches from around the world on Dec. 4-6.

"Each year it gets a little better," said Margie Owens of the Mesa 18th Ward, Mesa Arizona East Stake. She and her husband, Lanny, chaired the event.

"Everything is completely done by volunteers," she added, estimating that 6,000 hours went into setting up the many rooms throughout the building and booths in the cultural hall that resembled an Old World marketplace.

There were continuous live musical performances throughout the three-day event.

"The music is vital," said Gary Brown, co-chairman of the event. "This is a two-part thing, the Nativities and the music. One can't survive without the other." Brother Brown of the Mesa 30th Ward, Mesa Arizona East Stake, said the music reminds him of the original Nativity when the angels sang heralding the birth of the Savior.

"The music sets the mood [for the people] before they even see the Nativities," said Ann Humble of the Cooley Park Ward, Mesa Arizona Mountain View Stake. Sister Humble has arranged for the musical groups over the years to perform at this event. This year she contacted and scheduled more than 40 musical groups.

"It's also the one thing that the entire community can participate in," she said, adding that 10 other churches were involved, as well as many schools and community groups.

Hundreds of volunteers from 14 local stakes assisted with security and as hosts and hostesses for the event that attracted approximately 10,000 people. Families also took 30-minute turns in participating in the live Nativity held outside the meetinghouse.

People throughout the community loaned the creches on display inside.

Darlene Folkner of the Glenview Ward, Mesa Arizona Kimball Stake, loaned 93 of the more than 300 creches that she has in her collection. Included were sets she had made out of plastic canvas, ceramic, wood, or cloth, and those she had bought or had been given.

She said she started collecting Nativity sets in 1982 after making one for her family. She now sets up her collection in her home every year. "It brings Christ and the spirit into the season," she said. "I love the spirit that is there."

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