Vinland Nativity celebrates 25th year in new location
Vinland Living Nativity will celebrate a quarter century of sharing the silent portrayal of the birth of Christ in a new location this year. Visitors will be welcomed to the Exhibition Building on the Vinland Fairgrounds where volunteers and live animals are presented as the vision of Mary and Joseph with their newborn, Jesus, in a rustic manger among the shepherds and their animals.
Committee members from the Vinland Methodist Church, under the direction of chairperson Jean Moore and pastor John Hart, have reorganized the presentation at the fairgrounds to offer easier access and to accommodate the ever-increasing numbers of visitors.
"In past years, we have had people who wanted to come to the nativity, but they just didn't want to brave the drive up the hill in snow or ice," commented Moore. For 24 years, the nativity was held at the Vinland farm of Herschel and Anne Hemphill. "This way, even busloads of senior citizens will be able to come and enjoy the nativity scene. There will be lots of parking and much more room to move around in the big exhibition building, and it is easier to find."
As in past years, church members, friends and neighbors from the Vinland area gathered at the new site on several weekends before the Dec. 21, 22 and 23 evening presentations. Some helped place the large lighted star in a prominent high place, while others built a straw bale scene for the Holy Family and supporting characters.
"Youthville, Inc., is helping us with our mailing of brochures again this year," Moore explained. "All of the free-will donations that we receive from grateful visitors are always given to Youthville, an organization that provides places to live and counseling for Kansas troubled young people."
She noted that Youthville has locations in several Kansas counties, and that they are planning to have a display available for visitors to learn more about the organization.
Committee member Judy Cooper is rounding up babies this year.
"We are contacting families with new babies up to six months old," she explained. "It really doesn't matter if the babies are boys or girls. We like for the mother or father to portray Mary and Joseph, but sometimes other relatives or friends offer to do it if they cannot."
The Holy Family only stays in the scene for half an hour, while the shepherds usually go for a full hour. Cooper said she needs 18 babies to fill the time.
"We have most of them organized before it is time for the Nativity, but anyone is welcome to volunteer," she noted.
Interested families should call Cooper at 785-594-3864.
Moore's husband, Jerry, has been in charge of keeping the barn warm for the actors and visitors for the entire 25 years that the Nativity has been presented.
"Thanks to the Vinland Fair Board, we have two new furnaces," he said. "It is really a pleasure to have them; they make my job a whole lot easier."
Background music and hymns for the silent tableau are quietly played while lines of visitors pass by the manger scene from 6 to 9 p.m. each of the three evenings before Christmas Eve. Committee members Darlene and Neal Hart, Margaret Barnes, Mike Craig, David Garrison, Talitha Bailey, Kyle Medina and Greg Cooper, all from the Baldwin/Vinland area, will be assisting with parking, manning greeting tables and helping to dress and direct the "holy families" and "shepherds."
Moore mentioned that the new location has encouraged some of the church's older members to volunteer as helpers this year also. Vinland Fairgrounds is located on the north side of County Road 460, approximately four miles north of Baldwin City and 1/2 mile east of the corner of County Roads 1055 and 460.