For the past 17 years, those who have prepared, built and participated in Riverside United Methodist Churchs Drive-Thru Nativity have considered it their Christmas gift to the community.
Hundreds of families will come to the Pierce Avenue church to gaze at the tableau presentation, in which actors stand -- or kneel -- in place, portraying characters in a lighted nine-scene set. The last night is Saturday.
Its our presentation of the Christmas story, said David McCollum, chairman of this years event. People drive through and experience it. The visual representation makes it that much more meaningful.
Church members built the sets outside. Inside, costume designers help dress the characters -- including Joseph, Mary, the three Wise Men, Caesar, angels and Roman soldiers, getting them ready for their roles.
Greg Dabb, who is playing Joseph in a scene in which he and Mary travel to Bethlehem, said a church in New York he attended while growing up provided a similar presentation, which made him want to take part when he joined Riverside Methodist two years ago.
Ive been doing it since I was 6 years old, said Dabb, 25.
Dabb is partnered with Sherri Appleby, 54, whos portraying Mary. Appleby has played other parts over the years, including an angel one year.
Its a great way to meet people, she said. Its a great thing to be a part of.
Dabb and Appleby share their scene with the longest-serving member of the production -- Pancho, a donkey thats been on board since the first year of the production.
Pancho can be a temperamental co-star.
Hes very pushy, Dabb said with a chuckle. He doesnt care what youre going through. He does what he wants to do.
But thats the exception in an otherwise close-knit cast, Appleby said.
Every part is important, she said. You have to have every part to complete the play. ... Christmas has a deeper meaning because of all of this.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.