FORT SCOTT, Kan. --For the third consecutive year, a live nativity scene performed by the men and women of Bethel Community Church will be part of annual downtown Christmas festivities which include a parade, lighting of the Mayor's Christmas Tree, and of course, Santa Claus.
Dan Davis, coordinator of the living nativity and Bethel Community Church member, said this will be the third straight year the production has been performed downtown, but the play has been going on at the church for more than 15 years.
Davis said there are two main reasons church members feel the performance is an important present to the community.
"The biggest one is it's a wonderful opportunity to give out the Gospel," he said. "We find that many people have never really heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The second reason is that many people have some confusing facts about the birth of Christ; one is the wise men. People have heard the story of the three wise men. The Biblical account is much different than that. We try to get the Biblical accuracy."
Davis said the popular story is that there were three wise men who brought gifts to the infant Jesus, but the Bible does not actually indicate exactly how many wise men really visited Jesus at the time.
Davis said the production "fits right into the theme" of this year's downtown Christmas parade, "Putting Christ Back in Christmas."
The play features about 40 actors ranging in age from "newborn up to 80-plus," and involves at least 100 volunteers working behind the scenes, as well as live animals such as a donkey, sheep, goats, chickens, horses, and maybe "a calf or two," Davis said.
The story starts with the announcement to the shepherds of the birth of the Christ child, then moves to Bethlehem where the shepherds go to worship Christ in the manger, and then to the many wise men who visited him up to two years later. The play concludes with Jesus' death on the cross, Davis said.
Davis said he sometimes plays a role himself in the production.
"There are also several songs we do throughout the performance," he said. "It's a musical."
The cast and crew planned to have a day working on scenery and costumes Saturday at the church, located six miles west of Fort Scott. A practice walk-through and choir rehearsal are also scheduled.
Davis said the 12-15 minute production is scripted but contains "a minimal amount of speaking parts; the rest is a narrator."
Two performances will be given at 5:30 and 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 27, at the grassy area on the corner of Wall and Main streets. Set up for the shows will take place Monday, Nov. 26, and much of the next day, Davis said.
"It takes about one-and-a-half to two days to set it all up," he said.
Davis said the play will also be performed at 5:30 and 8:30 p.m. Dec. 8 at Gunn Park during the annual Christmas in the Park event.
Other activities as part of the downtown holiday festival Nov. 27 include a ham and bean feed from 4 to 8 p.m. that will serve as a fundraiser for the Scottish Rite Temple, free hot chocolate and $1 nachos served by the Fort Scott Recreation Commission from 5 to 7 p.m. at the temple, and the Christmas parade featuring many floats and attractions which starts at 6 p.m. The cost for the ham and bean feed is $5 per person.
A stage will be set up at the corner of Wall and Main streets for prize giveaways and the lighting of the Mayor's Christmas Tree after the parade. Gary Palmer and Deb McKenney are slated to serve as emcees for the evening.
Santa Claus, who will also ride in a firetruck at the end of the parade, will be at the Scottish Rite Temple following the parade for pictures and to talk with children about their Christmas wishes.
Entry forms for the parade, which is sponsored by the Fort Scott Area Chamber of Commerce, may be found online at www.fortscott.com or the chamber office, 231 E. Wall St. Cash prizes of $75, $50 and $25 will be awarded to the top three overall entries in the parade.
"It's always a fun evening," FSACC Executive Director Lindsay Madison said. "It's about getting everyone in the Christmas spirit."
Madison added she encourages parade entries with festive lights as "it always makes the parade fun." There were 38 entries in last year's parade and there have been eight entries so far this year. At least 500 spectators turned out to watch last year's procession.
The parade's theme, which was submitted by local resident Bill Brittain, was decided by a vote in a community contest. Ideas for themes were submitted and Brittain's idea received the most votes by the chamber membership, Madison said.
The parade route will begin at Third and Main streets, go to the corner of Wall Street and National Avenue and end at the corner of Third Street and National.