By Kelly Legg
Kings Avenue Baptist Church has created a joy-filled Christmas tradition that transports guests directly to the ancient City of Bethlehem to witness the birth of Jesus. Celebrating its 26th year, the Walk Through Bethlehem is an interactive event where attendees experience the miracle of Christmas.
“It all started when some of our church members saw a similar program at another church. They liked the idea so much and got a group together to start planning a version of their own for the Brandon area. It started out as an indoor event and each year it got bigger,” said Sandra Rodriguez, Committee Chairperson. The event is expected to draw more than 7,500 people this year.
Visitors are transported in a guided 30-minute tour of the authentic scenes of the ancient City of Bethlehem, including actors in time-period clothing, sets, scenery and animals. More than 350 volunteers become the townspeople of Bethlehem, populated by weavers, blacksmiths, bakers, carpenters, potters, Roman Guards and shepherds. The tour concludes with a visit to the manger with Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus.
To put on such a production, the church members and Boy Scout troop 101 assist in everything from behind-the-scenes roles, to set-building, acting, parking attendants and greeting guests.
The church is very serious about being authentic to this time period, including the animals and clothing. Among the crowd favorites every year are the animals including donkeys, camels, goats and sheep. “Many families have made it a part of their family’s Christmas tradition. And of course, the children like to see the animals,” said Rodriguez. “The adults comment on how authentic the church has built Bethlehem including the vendor booths and cast members. We have captured how busy it was at that time in the City of Bethlehem.”
According to Rodriguez, many of the scenes have been updated. It takes more than 25 people about a week to build all the scenes, including the lighting, props and decorations needed to re-create the town of Bethlehem.
“We are just excited that our church is able to continue this Christmas program for the Brandon community for our 26th year,” said Rodriguez.
There is no admission charge to travel to Bethlehem and experience it as it was over 2000 years ago.
Kings Avenue Baptist Church is located at 2602 S Kings Ave., in Brandon. The Walk Through Bethlehem event is being held on the following dates and times: Thursday, December 6 from 6:30-9:30 p.m., Friday, December 7 from 6:30 – 10p.m., Saturday, December 8, from 4 -10 p.m. and Sunday, December 9 from 4- 9:30 p.m.
For more information, please visit www.kingsavenue.org or call the Church Office at 684-9453.