OCONTO FALLS — As part of the annual Oconto Falls “Winter Wonderland” celebration, HSHS St. Clare Memorial Hospital sponsored a living Nativity scene Dec. 5 near the corner of Main Street and Caldwell Avenue.
Enduring the evening’s subfreezing temperatures, seven employees from the Catholic hospital donned colorful costumes from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. to portray Mary, Joseph, a shepherd, an angel and the Three Wise Men. A doll was used for the infant Jesus and the sheeps’ owner, Keli Potter of Promised Pastures, also joined the group.
While it was the third year that Oconto Falls’ downtown businesses sponsored the event — which included food and drinks served at various stores, as well as a choir of roaming carolers dressed in holiday costumes — it was the first time the hospital, located about one mile from downtown, took part in the holiday affair.
“Our hospital hasn’t participated … but this event is growing,” said Amber Just, volunteer services coordinator for HSHS St. Clare Memorial Hospital. “I reached out to the chairperson to say, ‘Hey, how can our hospital help or be part of this event?’ She and I discussed different things and just by brainstorming we came upon this idea of a live Nativity.”
Just said her remembrances of viewing a live Nativity as a child made the decision appealing. “I thought it would be a wondering thing if we could share that majesty with the crowd, make it something special and heartfelt for the young and the older residents,” she said.
The key to a successful Nativity was finding volunteers, said Just. “My colleagues were so happy to be part of it and we actually had to turn people away,” she said. “We kept it to the basics: seven actors — and we rented costumes.”
Participants included Potter and Tim Soper as shepherds; Mike Stapleton, Joe Lawton and Bruce Judd as the Three Wise Men; Dr. Alexa Gavaga and Ted VanderMeuse as Mary and Joseph; and Dr. Sadie Johnsen as the angel.
Even with live animals, the event went on without a hitch. Families with young children walked up to view the actors, pet the donkeys and take photos.
“This is what’s so magical about this — the community and the colleagues having that excitement to do something that’s so spectacular and memorable,” said Just. “It’s made me so excited and I already have my Christmas present.”
At the event’s conclusion, Just read a Gospel passage from the Nativity story. The Christmas carolers then ended the evening by leading community members, gathered along the sidewalk and holding candles, in singing “Silent Night.”