This Nativity scene doesn't go up overnight.
Volunteers spent three weeks transforming First Baptist Church's perimeter into the "Streets of Bethlehem" — a Salinas Christmas favorite.
Daniel Vangerpen, technical director, has overseen the holiday event for the past eight years. Despite the chilly weather, he expects a large turnout for the four-day event that opened Wednesday night. In past years, 10,000 to 15,000 people have come to see the re-enactment of the Nativity story.
"It's the third largest event in Salinas, behind the rodeo and the air show," said Vangerpen.
As preparations were coming together Wednesday afternoon, 15 goats that play a part in the recreation of the village of Bethlehem playfully nudged each other behind the church. They munched grass and lounged in the sun that streamed down on their pen.
The animals are one flourish to an endeavor that involves nearly 200 volunteers, including students, community service members and actors. About 10 people are responsible for assembling the sets.
Although the preceding weeks of building went smoothly, there are always a few bumps in the road, Vangerpen said as preparations were coming together Wednesday afternoon.
"One of the biggest questions we have once all the pieces are out is, how does this all go back together again?" said Vangerpen, referring to the large blocks of painted wood used to build the set.
The church borrows construction signs from the city to control traffic in neighboring streets every year.
Because of the lack of parking and traffic near the church, organizers hope visitors will take advantage of the free shuttle that runs throughout the performance from Park Row.
Jeremy Oney, a set builder and designer who has volunteered for several years, was pleased with the progress they made in the seven days it took to build the set.
"God's hand was in this one," Oney said.
Oney, along with his wife and 6-month-old son, acts in the manger scene. Oney also plays the part of an adult Jesus for the first time, and he was nervous about memorizing his eight lines before the opening performance.
Security guard Doug Block has been camping in a trailer on the church property since Sunday. Although he expects a peaceful few days of performances, the crowd occasionally gets rowdy.
"Sometimes you get people that make too much noise during the show, and we have to ask them to quiet down," said Block.
Several years ago, a couple of high school students took a donkey and walked it down the street to Palma High School in the middle of the night. That's about as wild as it's been, he said.
Kat Ogletree, the church's director of drama, unrolled and crinkled long pieces of clear masking tape, which, draped from a fake fountain, appear to be water. She has overseen two rehearsals a week since September, ensuring the actors know their lines.
Ogletree is excited that a new stage will allow for a donkey to be more visible to the audience this year. She's also making a trophy the audience will bestow upon the best vendor in the marketplace.
The team is enthusiastic about this year's event.
"We're ready to serve the community with their spiritual needs," Block said.
Julia Calderone can be reached at 646-1188 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go
·What: Streets of Bethlehem
·When: 6 to 8:30 p.m. daily through Saturday
·Where: First Baptist Church of Salinas, 1130 San Vincente Ave.
·More information: www.streetsofbethlehem.com
If you go