Live nativity attracts more than 3,500 in Colorado

Credit: Photo courtesy Ty Draper
Credit: Photo courtesy Ty Draper
Credit: Photo courtesy Ty Draper
Credit: Photo courtesy Ty Draper
Credit: Photo courtesy Ty Draper
Credit: Photo courtesy Shaye Harger
Credit: Photo courtesy Shaye Harger
Credit: Photo courtesy Ty Draper
Credit: Photo courtesy Ty Draper
Credit: Photo courtesy Ty Draper
Credit: Photo courtesy Ty Draper
Credit: Photo courtesy Shaye Harger


COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO. The crowds were shoulder to shoulder with nearly no room at the inn, or rather, the Colorado Springs Colorado North Stake Center during the 6th Annual Colorado Springs Crèche Exhibit and Live Nativity Performance.

Some 3,500 attendees perused the 1,020 Nativity scenes on display during the two-day event, held Dec. 5-6.

“They were coming in droves,” said Bonnie Hart, event chairwoman. She credits much of the success of the event to the previous organizer, Bryan Searing, who began the annual event in 2009 as a tri-ward missionary tool that reached out to the community.

“We wanted to make the statement that we believe in Christ, to get people feeling comfortable visiting our Church and to start the season with a powerful spiritual experience,” said Brother Searing of the Explorer Park Ward, Colorado Springs Colorado North Stake.

Each year the event gained popularity and increased in donated crèche displays, choir performances by local high schools and crowds during the outdoor Live Nativity Performance which includes 25 cast members and live animals such as llamas, sheep and donkeys.

The outdoor performance was first produced by Ann Heer of the Gleneagle Ward in 2006 and was later combined with the Crèche Exhibit in 2009.

“Some of my most treasured experiences have been working on the Nativity,” said Sister Heer. “It is a wonderful opportunity to serve the Savior.”

This year the event was moved to a larger venue to accommodate an increase in visitors. “The event was becoming incredibly popular and we were running out of room,” said Kevin Woodward, president of the Colorado Springs Colorado North Stake.

An increased number of missionaries were also invited to participate this year to greet visitors and answer questions. “I am very grateful for the support of the mission president in this effort,” he said. “The main purpose of this event is to help the community to better understand our feelings of love for our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ,” said President Woodward.

Sister Hart said the attendance of community members grew this year because of an increase in advertising and local newspaper articles highlighting a featured collector, Lelia Guilbert, who is not a member of the Church.

“I was just thrilled beyond capacity of the number of participants and the quality of the crèches, as-well-as the exhibit,” said Ms. Guilbert. “It was like a fantasy land,” she said.

Ms. Guilbert has a personal collection of close to 1000 Nativity sets that started with her first purchase in 1965. She was newly married and bought a little plastic Nativity with a light-up Jesus. “It was so cheap, $1.99 or $2.99 and I thought, next year, I will upgrade and I never quit.”

She found out about the crèche exhibit through an auction house in Colorado Springs where she was starting to sell some of her collection.

The owner of the auction house gave Ms. Guilbert the phone number of Laura Talbot, who’s on the crèche decorating committee and was at the auction looking at Nativity scenes. Ms. Guilbert gave her a call, “she came down and talked to me, we clicked and the rest is history,” she said.

Ms. Guilbert brought 400 plus Nativity scenes from her collection to display. They gave her a section of the gym to display her items with her name on a placard hanging above. The rest of the gym was sectioned off into countries of origin including Africa, Europe and Asia.

Ms. Guilbert has been giving part of her collection to her family members, selling other pieces to collectors and whatever is left, is planning on calling Sister Talbot to see if the Church would be interested in having them.

“I like to share, and it’s time to find new loving homes for my collection,” she said.

“I am just delirious about all of the interest that was generated because I took my collection down to the auction,” she said. “It boggles my mind.”

More than 300 pounds of non-perishable food items were also collected at the event for Care and Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado.

Sister Hart said the event will be held again next year and believes this year was a success because people came to see the art but left with a feeling of peace and a profound experience of the spirit.

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