Sidney nativity display a gift to the community

Upcoming nativity display at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Sidney is the perfect way to start the Christmas season.

Tom Watson gets the decorations ready for the upcoming nativity display.

For Nancy Watson the upcoming nativity display at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Sidney is the perfect way to start the Christmas season.

Watson is one of the primary organizers and a long-time volunteer at what will this year be the eighth annual exhibit of nativity sets which, taken together, are a representation of Christmas and family traditions around the world. The displays hail from Israel, Japan, Brazil, Africa, Norway, Italy, France and a host of other countries. They range in size from life-size representations of the nativity to some sets that are so small that they can only be viewed through a magnifying glass.

“Most of these sets have been loaned to us by area residents,” said Watson. “In a way, the displays are actually a representation of the community … their backgrounds, their travels, and their love of all that the season represents.”

The materials used for the sets are equally varied. As one might expect, there are traditional wooden sets, lovingly hand painted by inspired crafters. But there are also scenes made from plaster, plastic, fabric, glass and one set that is housed entirely within an eggshell.

In all, more than 500 nativity scenes are on display, all reflecting the cultural origins of their creators.

The display is framed by appropriate seasonal music and thousands of lights to enhance the viewing experience. There are also four wall sized murals by local artist Dianne Gavilan on display, along with several other pieces of original art.

“This is really a family friendly event,” said Watson. “There is no charge, and we’ve gone to extra effort to make sure that the children are also engaged by the display.”

That extra effort includes some hands on nativity scenes as well as a life-sized exhibit where children can dress up in nativity costumes for those ever popular photo opportunities. Organizers have also arranged for a craft room and a free supervised nursery with Christmas movies and toys.

“We want parents to be able to enjoy the displays while younger children are allowed to have their own fun,” said Watson.

The nativity display runs from November 30 to December 7 and is open to the public from 2 to 9 p.m. daily. Additional group viewings can be arranged by visiting free4uevents@gmail.com. The facility is wheelchair accessible.

“I’m very happy that we’re able to provide this free event to the community,” said Watson. “It’s a season that is sometimes seen as too commercialized, and this really takes it back to the real meaning of the season. It’s our Christmas gift to the community.”

— by Tim Collins, News Contributor