The annual outdoor nativity pageant at Topaz Park features a live cast of humans and animals, recreating the story of Christmas. It runs Thursday through Saturday with four half-hour performances each night. Photo contributed

Outdoor nativity pageant a labour of love for Victoria cast and crew

Thirty-first annual production brings Christmas story to life

For a 31st year, local adults and children from congregations of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints will gather at the south end of Topaz Park to replay the nativity scene.

The free, live outdoor pageant is a longstanding Christmas week tradition for many area families, says Graham Sanderson, one of the organizers. Involved with the production since the beginning with his wife, Lyanne, who has produced the pageant for more than 20 years, Sanderson says the roughly half-hour production stays largely the same from year to year.

“We’re not trying to make it new,” he says, noting that the story of Jesus’ birth hasn’t changed. “But we do try to jazz up the costumes and keep it bright.”

The shows, four a night starting Dec. 21 and continuing Dec. 22 and 23, have a soundtrack combining recorded narration of biblical scriptures by legendary Mustard Seed Street Church founder Rev. Gipp Forster, and well-known Christmas hymns and music.

The performances tend to draw a wide range of people of faith, but also those who are just curious about the retelling of the Christmas story. It’s especially striking with a live cast, complete with animals supplied by local farmers, and actors who may have been part of the cast for multiple generations.

Sanderson says over the 30 years of performances, there are people who have played baby Jesus – both male and female – who are now seeing their own infant and young children be part of the cast.

There are other unique aspects and personal benefits for some of the cast members who have been part of this long-term production.

“We tend to pick single people to play the roles of Mary and Joseph,” he says. “Through the years there have been a few of those couples who have ended up getting married.”

The average year tends to draw around 5,000 people for the dozen performances, with weather affecting the numbers to a degree. Regulars know the pageant runs rain or shine, however.

While audience members need not hold a devout faith to attend, Sanderson says the hope always is that it inspires people to feel and gives them something to contemplate.

“We hope they just get reminded of the true meaning of Christmas and get distracted for a time from the capitalism of the season.”

The first performance each night is 6:30 p.m. then following on the half hour. Parking is available at S.J. Willis Alternative School and in the Topaz Park lots. The site is also accessible for people in wheelchairs.

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