Joseph and Mary make plans to travel to Bethlehem. From left, Rocky the horse, Caleb Melcher and Grace Sorenson. Photos by Jennifer Soland.
By Karen M. Jorgensen
"Christmas Alive!" completed its' two-day run at the Jim Checkel farm south of Kasson earlier this month with close to 900 people taking the seven scene, inspirational walk through the story of the birth of Christ.
The first scene begins with the Angel Gabriel appearing to Mary and continues to its conclusion at the Nativity. A narrator guides the visitors to each scene.
"Over 870 people, not counting babies," came to the event, said Jennifer Soland, one of the event organizers.
"Christmas Alive!" is performed with a volunteer cast of youngsters from five or six through the teen years, she said.
This year's cast included 58 young people along with an assortment of cows, pigs, sheep, llamas and horses.
There was no admission for the event but attendees were invited to bring a donation for the local food shelf, Soland said. "We had generous donations for the food shelf," she said.
The entire project comes together with minimal rehearsal time, she said. Casting was done in one day and then there was one day for rehearsing, she said.
It is because the project does not have a lot of rehearsal time and that it is only for two days, she said, that a large number of youngsters can be counted on.
Originally, she said, the play ran Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Because of getting enough young actors able to commit to the project during the busy Christmas season and the difficulty in bringing the animals to the Checkel farm, it was decided to limit the production to two days.
The cast changes each year, she said, although one member has remained constant. Rocky the horse has carried Mary to Bethlehem for all 10 years of the production, Soland said. He did get a little grumpy this year, she added, but Joseph was able to control him.
While many of the actors are young children, she said, those in charge of the horses are older and generally members of the 4-H horse project.
The purpose of "Christmas Alive!," she said, is to have something during the Advent season to get people in the mood for Christmas.
The event, she said, would not be possible without the support of Checkel. When the group was first considering the production, she said, they asked several farmers if they could use their property but no one said yes until they approached Checkel.
"It never would have happened without Jim Checkel, she said.
The parent volunteers are also vital to the production, she said.
"We are so grateful to all the parent volunteers," she said.
With the 10th production now history, she said, the group's next step will be to meet to talk about what went right, what might be changed. And, to begin the planning for "Christmas Alive!" 2018.