By Amanda Boston

This year marks 30 years for Kings Avenue Baptist Church’s annual Walk Thru Bethlehem. Thursday, December 8 through Sunday, December 11, the story of Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection is illustrated with a guided 45-minute interactive tour through biblical scenes of Bethlehem. The little town of Bethlehem is brought to life by town merchants, tax collectors, Roman soldiers, shepherds, Mary, Joseph, and of course, a baby Jesus. A camel, sheep, and donkey also join the cast to create an authenticate atmosphere.

A production of this magnitude requires over 300 volunteers. Since 1986, Kings Avenue congregants have faithfully created and staged the live scenes with the purpose of sharing the true meaning of Christmas. The dramatized depiction of the Gospel has changed lives. Over the past 30 years, the event has prompted numerous visitors to rededicate their lives or accept Christ for the first time. Sandra Rodriquez, the coordinator for costumes and props, echoed King Avenue’s motivation, “It is a lot of work, but if one person is saved, it’s all worth it.”

David Gallops, one of the main organizers, emphasized the authenticity of the event; “We try to make the Walk Thru Bethlehem as realistic as possible. Don’t be surprised if the Roman guards harass you or if you are asked to pay your taxes.”

Gallops, who has been involved since its inception, also reminisced on a side story developing over the past 30 years, “My children have grown up on the set; they have played the parts from baby Jesus to a Roman soldier.” Walk Thru Bethlehem is not only a yearly tradition for the Gallops family; it has also evolved into a Christmas tradition for the local community.

Over the four nights, the free family-friendly event draws a sizeable crowd upwards of 7,000 visitors. In order to avoid longer wait times, it is recommended to arrive earlier in the evening. Upon arrival, visitors are given a number designating a guide and an appointed tour time. While waiting for an assigned tour, visitors can enjoy holiday tunes reverberating from the local school bands while partaking in a variety of food concessions.

Walk Thru Bethlehem is scheduled for Thursday, December 8, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.; Friday, December 9, from 6:30 to 10 p.m.; Saturday, December 10, from 4 to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, December 11, from 4 to 9 p.m. The church is located at 2602 S. Kings Ave. in Brandon. Contact the church office at 685-3095.