More than 100 cast members have been preparing for the live Nativity at First Presbyterian Church this weekend. Each has dedicated one night to reenacting the birth of Christ.
The annual event has been scheduled for Dec. 14-15, from 5-8 p.m. at the church on Hwy. Q.
Team lead Wes Ray said First Presbyterian’s live nativity dates back to 1997, and members of his congregation prepare for it throughout the entire year.
“FPC has run a live nativity for the Waunakee community for 23 years now,” Ray said. “And it’s a really fun time for everybody in the church – building the scenery and, of course, organizing it. We have a cast of hundreds. Families often like to sign up to be the shepherds all together.”
Ray said that the nativity scene will feature live animals such as sheep.
“And there’ll be a cow or two tethered inside the stable,” Ray said. “Years ago, we used to have a cow and a camel. But camels are a little more temperamental and difficult to deal with. So we don’t really ask for camels anymore.”
The church member recalled a recent event in which one of the animals got loose from its rope, and began wandering around the churchyard without its parent.
“A couple years ago,” Ray said, “we had a momma cow and her fairly young calf tethered down to a stake. But the calf’s knot got loose, so he started to wander off. Well, you can imagine the momma cow really started to pay attention to that. So she was tugging and mooing pretty bad.”
Three cast members were tasked with wrangling the runaway animal.
“The three wise men were more like cowboys that night,” Ray said. “They had to go get the calf back, and try to get the rope back on the lead the calf was wearing before it got too far away. And for as small as that calf was, he was pretty darn strong. It’s not like he just followed along.”
Ray said it’s those type of experiences that make the event memorable, and why his church has devoted so many years to sharing the Nativity scene with the community of Waunakee.
“Christmas means many things to many different people,” Ray said, “and that’s fine. Each person or family can enjoy it in their own way. But for FPC and other Christian-faith-based groups, this is the reason for the season – the birth of Jesus Christ.”
Ray said the event is free to all visitors, but that donations are accepted.