OUTDOOR NATIVITY FOR ALL: Church to present Christmas drive-thru

Doris Felis, at left, and Beth Farr bring color to the figure of a king.

With an enthusiastic and can-do attitude, members of the Green Valley Baptist Church Deacon Auxiliary have been preparing for Christmas since spring due to COVID-19’s effect on virtually everything.

Sandy Lovell, spokeswoman for the endeavor, said church members started thinking in March and got together right after everything closed down.

“Usually we’d be planning a big dinner. Then we thought about a project we could do at a distance that would give us something to do for the church and for the community,” Lovell said with enthusiasm.

This large-scale, innovative project will include a drive-through nativity scene with 17 figures on display outdoors from Dec. 1 through Christmas Day — and possibly longer.

The idea of a nearly life-size nativity was warmly welcomed, although no one had an idea of how much lead time or work was needed for such an undertaking.

Once ideas started flowing and taking form, planning in earnest began.

“It’s definitely a God-given project,” Lovell said.

OUTDOOR NATIVITY FOR ALL: Church to present Christmas drive-thru

Diane Longo focuses on painting the camel figure, which when finished will have jewels on the strands.

Orders were placed for life-size patterns of 17 nativity figures, plus eight plywood boards each measuring 4-by-8-feet long and 3/4-inch thick.

Lovell said Gary Cooper, owner of S&S Constructors in Green Valley, ordered the plywood boards for the church. Once they arrived, church construction crew members Howard and Cheryl Dye, Ed and Ann Holbert, Don Stanton, Sandy Lovell, Carol Atkinson, Diane Longo, Beth Farr and Gwen Austin did the support, cutting, carving and preparing the figures for painting and decorating.

Holes will be drilled for wood supports and rebar that will anchor each figure into the ground. The tallest is one of the three kings that measures 70 inches, or almost 6 feet in height.

OUTDOOR NATIVITY FOR ALL: Church to present Christmas drive-thru

Sandy Lovell shows what two cut-out figures will look like once they’re painted.

Once the patterns arrived, huge sheets of carbon paper were used to transfer each figure’s outline onto a board. Then each wood figure was handcarved.

All figures, including the animals, are being painted in acrylic colors specific to each character’s design, including the clothing, skin tones and even their finger nails, Lovell pointed out.

Church member and artist Charlie Logan is leading the painting of the 17 wood figures being done by a group of church volunteers.

OUTDOOR NATIVITY FOR ALL: Church to present Christmas drive-thru

Lead artist Charlie Logan works on the details of a cow’s eye.

“The whole idea is to make everyone feel comfortable and have fun with this experience. I told everyone ‘have fun, loosen up.’ We let church members decide what figure they wanted to paint. It will take a couple of months,” Logan explained.

Was this undertaking a response to COVID-19? “I don’t know if I would have thought of this if it hadn’t happened. We want to make a good thing out of a bad thing,” Lovell said,

Shepherd’s Fold Preschool, on the grounds of Green Valley Baptist Church, will also have a display with children participating in the scenes and decorations.

Lovell described this distinct Christmas project as bringing together the church congregation with friends and neighbors who want to help.

“It’s a work in progress at this time, but we can’t wait to put out the display and invite our community to drive by and appreciate the joy and hope that the birth of Jesus Christ has given us,” he said, adding that it is not only a night-time event and to “please bring children to see this display.”

Canned and packaged donations for the local food banks are welcome, and a collection bin will be on hand.

Considering all the planning and labor involved to bring this project to the community, Lovell said everything will be stored for possible future use.

Contact Green Valley News freelance reporter Ellen Sussman at ellen2414@cox.net