THREE HILLS — The village of Bethlehem is open in the town of Three Hills.
The Bethlehem Walk recreates the hamlet so people can learn what life was like at the time of Christ’s birth. This is the fourth year the Three Hills Ministerial’s six area churches have provided volunteer actors and builders.
“With a crew of 25, in two nights we build Bethlehem,” said Vicki Friesen, the event’s organizer.
Shepherds warming themselves at an outdoor fire welcome visitors as they enter and sign a census scroll. They receive a passport and collect stickers from actors along the tour.
Although there’s no admission fee, tax collectors good naturedly harangue patrons, with the proceeds split between the town’s food bank and Compassion International, a faith-based charity working to end Third World child poverty.
“We’ve raised about $8,000 in previous years,” said Friesen.
The village set is located in back of the Three Hills General Store, a town-owned public market and business incubator located on Main Street featuring vendors of art and handmade crafts.
Its unheated storage area, which once held stock for a Beaver Lumber outlet, features many shops including the doctor, fishmonger, carpenter, baker and grocer, all vying for attention by barking their wares and services.
Above their din echoes a shofar’s high, thin call as a rabbi blows the ram’s horn from the synagogue.
Roman centurions patrol a second-storey catwalk, eyes sharp for any problems in the populace.
This year’s cast of 120 are all clad in period garb, much of it made by Friesen.
She runs a costume store as well as directs children’s theatre and volunteers with the Three Hills adult community theatre.
The cast’s ages range from a two-month-old baby Jesus to a carpenter who’s more than 80. Live donkeys, sheep and an alpaca have been donated by the GuZoo.
Attendance has grown annually with about 3,000 touring the village last year.
Friesen, who has helped with previous walks, said this year’s version “is all her baby.
“I love it. I believe that people who come through here will never go through a church and Christmas is about that baby in that manger.
“All this . . . is about him.”
The final 2012 Bethlehem Walks run from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.