Despite sub-freezing temperatures, an outdoor live nativity event drew a large crowd Saturday afternoon at Paonia Christian Fellowship. Observers were warmed by fires burning in fire pits, and by hot drinks, including coffee, tea, hot chocolate and espresso. Cloth bags filled with heated rice were passed around for people to warm their cold hands, and gift bags were available for everyone to take home.
This is the first year the church has featured a live nativity, said organizer and church member Shannon Ullmann. Other churches came together to provide costumes and cookies and other treats, and to help in many ways. "We feel like we got a lot of support from the whole church community," she said.
Ullmann, whose family moved to Paonia about a year ago, said the church they attended before moving here held a similar event and she wanted to give it a try. "It seems like people are having a great time," she said. Children could hardly stay away from the sheep and goats and donkeys stabled nearby, and from the big-eyed baby jersey cow born last spring. Children were encouraged to pet the animals, which were all gentle as lambs.
At least 40 people, including the choir, the shepherds and Wise Men, were involved in the program. Ages ranged from the baby Jesus, played by 8-month-old baby Nora, to adults. Ullman's daughter was a dancer in the production, and her husband organized the food and beverages.
"I would say at least 80 percent of the congregation did something," she said.
Paonia Christian Fellowship, Paonia Assembly of God and Friends Church also work together to create a carnival every Halloween. For the first year, it went well, said Ullmann. "I'm glad we had a lot of fire pits."