The community is invited to register to attend Kings Avenue Baptist Church’s 37th annual Walk Thru Bethlehem event. New director Austin Brown was baby Jesus during the production 26 years ago (as pictured in the manger).

Kings Avenue Baptist Church welcomes the community to experience the true meaning of Christmas at its 37th annual Walk Thru Bethlehem (WTB) event. The awe-inspiring production brings the city of Bethlehem alive during this free event that has brought this Christmas tradition to the community since 1986.

This family-friendly, immersive holiday experience transports guests back to Bethlehem during the time of Jesus’ birth. Visitors will feel the sense of time travel from the realism of the scenery, authentically dressed townspeople, Roman guards, Temple scribes, inn keepers, shepherds and live animals. During the 45-minute guided tour, guests will be moved by the sights, sounds and smells of ancient Bethlehem. The tour concludes at the Holy Manger with Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus.

Nicole Johnson is a guide director for WTB and is excited to volunteer again. She loves being a part of giving families a memorable event that makes them want to keep coming back each year.

“People come to you wanting to hear about Jesus,” said Johnson. “It’s a generational event.”

WTB director Austin Brown has a particular fondness for WTB.

“I grew up being a part of this event, as I played baby Jesus 26 years ago,” said Brown. “So, it’s always been an important tradition to me and my family. I love seeing all the people come through every year, being taken back to the time of Jesus and getting to be a part of the story — getting to know what it was like to grow up back then and to see what all Jesus went through for us.”

As you can imagine, a production of this size and on multiple days requires many hands. Kings Avenue Baptist Church is grateful for the over 350 volunteers from various churches and organizations that help make this event a success every year. With more than 20,000 square feet of this recreated holy city, volunteers and donations are always welcome. WTB is always in search of more volunteers. The Durant High School JROTC and American Heritage Girls have been a huge help with setting up, acting and cleaning up after the event. Volunteers come from across Florida as well as other states to help share the story of the birth of Jesus.

Last year, more than 3,500 visitors attended WTB, and the reservation system helped to streamline the tours. Reservations can be made by visiting Walk-up spots are available on Friday and Saturday only.

Walk Thru Bethlehem takes place on Thursday, December 7 from 6:30-9:30 p.m.; Friday, December 8 from 6:30-9:30 p.m.; Saturday, December 9 from 4-9:30 p.m.; and Sunday, December 10 from 4-9:30 p.m. For more information, call 813-684-1484. There will be live entertainment this year on Friday and Saturday night. Kings Avenue Baptist Church is located at 2602 S Kings Ave. in Brandon.

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Kelly Wise Valdes
Kelly Wise Valdes has been writing for the Osprey Observer since 2008. She graduated in 1989 from Florida Southern College with a B.S. in Communications and enjoys writing and traveling. She currently resides in northern Hillsborough County with her husband, David. When not traveling and writing, Kelly and her husband enjoy spending time with their five grown children (as well as their grandchildren) that still keep them very busy.