'Our gift to the community'

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — Lighting ceremonies were held at a Church visitors center in this city, and at the historic site in nearby Liberty recently, with local mayors and other dignitaries in attendance at each ceremony, according to Judy Rix, director of public affairs for the Missouri visitors centers.

The lighting ceremony in Independence was attended by Missouri state Sen. Mary Bland and Independence Mayor Ron Stewart, as well as local Church leaders.

"This family centered event filled with the warmth of the holiday spirit is our gift to the community," said Hugh Barlow, director of the Independence Visitors Center.

The theme for the display was "Family Christmas traditions bring light to a new generation," and to illustrate the theme outdoor exhibits were created on the grounds of the visitors center. The exhibits reflect the Christmas traditions and memories of 25 prominent Kansas City and Independence families that were interviewed by local members.

Also on display is a toy antique Lionel train that winds its way through a gingerbread village. This extensive village fills the entire lower level of the visitors center. Included in the village are replicas of several famous local residences, among more than 80 of the edible edifices on display. Local musical groups are to perform every evening through December.

In Liberty, the historic Liberty Jail where the Prophet Joseph Smith was illegally detained during the winter of 1838-39, is the site of Christmas lights and some 100 nativity scenes from many countries.

The thousands of lights on the grounds and building were turned on by Liberty Mayor Steve Hawkins. The creche scenes "recognize the universality and worldwide significance of Jesus Christ's birth," said Lynn Patten, exhibits chairman.

Among the most interesting is a life-size nativity scene created by local members Kelly and Beverly Barnett of the Liberty Missouri Stake. A musical program by the Mormon Chorale followed the lighting ceremony.

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