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Jerusalem trip inspires Calgary director of annual nativity pageant

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The 55th annual Calgary Nativity Pageant kicks off Dec. 19 and the 300-plus volunteers involved in the reenactment have been working since July to get the event ready for the Christmas season.

Calgary Nativity Pageant director Kim Folkins immersed herself into the story of Christ and went to Jerusalem with her husband and three of her eight children just to draw inspiration for the show.

She said that since she’s been doing the pageant, which changes directors every 5 years, she’s redone the stable.

“I went over to Jerusalem and learned that over in Jerusalem they keep their animals in caves,” she said,

“I was like, ‘have they been doing this for thousands of years? Like, in Jesus’ time?’”

Each new director has the chance to make changes to the production, however, there’s no plot twist, said Folkins.

“But they can do different music, lighting, or switch it up any way they want.”

“For me this is a labour of love and it’s a fascination to me. Now, of course, is this what it looked like? I don’t know. But every year someone has done something to add to the set.”

Folkins added that everything in the production is donated. The pageant’s inn fell apart earlier this year, so it needed to be rebuilt. The foaming and the coating of the inn were donated, and the trucking company helped out for free.

“It’s not exactly as it looked last year, but pretty darn close,” she said.

“There are people who so willingly come and do things, and we’re blown away.”

The final scene of the Calgary Nativity Pageant. PHOTO COURTESY JAYDEN CAMPBELL

Ingrid Koller, the show’s artistic director, makes the pageant a family affair. Her kids love Christmas and being involved in the nativity pageant, she said.

“It adds a lot to the Christmas season to be able to just focus on the reason for the season—even though it’s a sacrifice to give up time in the Christmas season, it’s been a real blessing, too,” she said, adding that it’s a “visceral” experience.

Koller shared a story about waiting in line to buy presents for her kids, when a lady beside her struck up a conversation and asked if she was ready for Christmas. That’s when Koller mentioned the nativity.

“And she said, ‘I didn’t know things like that happened anymore. I see it in movies and it always makes me tear up to see kids involved. I’ve never seen a live nativity before.’ And so I was like ‘oh, this one is extra special because it’s outdoors and there’s a donkey and some sheep.’ And she was totally floored.”

The pageant is non-denominational and although it’s put on by her church, Koller said it’s just a story from the Bible and it’s accessible to everyone.

“Because it’s at Heritage Park, people know where to go to get there,” she said.

“It’s not in a church building that they might feel uncomfortable with, if they’re not religious.”

The re-enactment is free and runs from now until Christmas with nightly shows happening from 7 to 9 p.m. The show is 12 minutes long and runs every 20 minutes. The specific location is the marina parking lot next to Heritage Park.

It’s recommended you bring a warm blanket.

If you would like more information about the Calgary Nativity Pageant, visit calgarynativity.com or find them on Facebook.