Posted: Thursday, December 5th 2013 at 9:12pm
Gainesville LDS Church hosts miniature nativity exhibit
By Marc Eggers Staff
GAINESVILLE – A generation or two ago nativity scenes graced nearly every town square and were common items fronting public buildings during December.
With that no longer being the case, should you nostalgically yearn to see an old-fashioned crèche you need travel no farther than Riverside Drive in Gainesville.
An exhibit of nearly 900 miniature nativity scenes gathered from across the globe are on display at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and open for public display each evening, December 6-8.
Church member George Wangemann owns 325 of them, having collected them for nearly twenty years. He’s acquired them in a variety of ways: through travels around the country, as gifts from friends and on the internet. "Some of them are purchased at yard sales," Wangemann said with a laugh.
Rosie Kirby and Barbara Bailes of Gainesville are the owners of most of the remaining 600 porcelain, ivory, crystal, wood and whatever-else-can-be-used-to-construct-a-nativity-scene sets, all carefully laid out on tiered display tables.
"We’ve got in here the world’s smallest nativity," Wangemann said pointing to the tiny pewter manger scene from Italy. Wangemann also pointed to a nativity done to honor Gainesville’s thriving poultry industry…a most-curious rendition, to say the least.
"We used to have a live nativity out in front of the church," Wangemann said, explaining how the indoor exhibit began eight years ago. "And we discontinued the live nativity because the little kids were pulling the tails on the animals, and they starting kicking."
"I helped them set up," said Linda Richards of Gainesville, an effort that takes over a week.
Live dulcimer music played in the background, courtesy of congregation leader Bishop Robert Weaver, as dozens of people browsed through the Cultural Hall. Twenty-four hundred people visited the exhibit last year and the congregation is hoping to surpass three-thousand guests this year.
The church is located at 1234 Riverside Drive and admission is free. For more information contact the church at (770) 536-4950.
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