As visitors take photos, Suzanne Toolson fixes the hair of Mea Ruston, 15, as she sits in the live nativity at the fifth Nativity Festival in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Thursday in Arlington. The free event is open to the public and runs through the end of the weekend, finishing with a concert at 7 p.m. Sunday. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

As visitors take photos, Suzanne Toolson fixes the hair of Mea Ruston, 15, as she sits in the live nativity at the fifth Nativity Festival in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Thursday in Arlington. The free event is open to the public and runs through the end of the weekend, finishing with a concert at 7 p.m. Sunday. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

In Smokey Point, nearly 400 nativities to suit any imagination

SMOKEY POINT — Isaac Bean bent down to the level of his 6-year-old daughter and the stroller where his 2-year-old rode. He pointed to a nativity with snowmen characters sitting among four other scenes on a round table covered in white and gold cloth and surrounded by bright red poinsettias.

“Look,” he urged his daughters. “A snowman Jesus.”

“A snowman Jesus,” daughter Jenna Bean, 6, repeated. She leaned closer to the table.

Isaac Bean and his wife, Christina, on Thursday brought their four children from Lake Stevens to the fifth Nativity Festival at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 17222 43rd Ave. NE. The free event is open to the public and runs through the end of the weekend, finishing with a concert at 7 p.m. Sunday.

There are nearly 400 nativities set up in the gymnasium of the church. They were brought in by volunteers. Though all of the scenes depict the biblical story of the birth of Jesus Christ, they come in all shapes, sizes, colors and even species. There was a cat nativity and another scene with black bears. There were colorful cloth characters, tiny Russian nesting dolls, elegant stone statues, hand-carved cypress wood and a stained glass nativity scene with light shining through.

“I see the pictures. I like looking at that,” Jenna said, pointing to one of the more colorful scenes. “Like that, over there, with the big star.”

The festival typically draws about 3,000 people throughout the weekend, according to event organizers. It started Thursday evening. It continues from noon to 9 p.m. Saturday and 3 to 9 p.m. Sunday.

Along with the nativities, the space is decorated with lighted Christmas trees, Bethlehem backdrops and poinsettias around every table. Groups have volunteered to come in throughout the festival and perform live music. On Thursday, a group of five women played piano, violin, flute and sang. “The First Noel” floated through the room as people wandered around the tables.

Bean encourages people to take their time if they come to the festival.

“I think the longer you spend here, the more you get out of it,” he said. “It’s all about the little details.”

There also is a children’s craft area and art displays. In the gymnasium, one of the nativities is a live scene where people volunteer to dress as Mary, Joseph, an angel, a shepherd and, if there are enough volunteers, the three wise men.

On Thursday evening, McKenna Mullins, Mea Rushton and Jacob and Finley Hubbard took a two-hour shift in the live nativity. Mea, 15, played Mary, and Jacob, 16, played Joseph, while 10-year-old McKenna watched over them with a shepherd’s crook in hand. Jacob’s sister, Finley, played the part of an angel. Admittedly, she was an angel hungry for some cookies, but she stayed diligently in the manger as people strolled by.

“They needed volunteers to put this all together, and it’s a really big thing to put on,” Mea said. “We wanted to help because it looks so cool when it’s all put together.”

The festival is about setting the mood for Christmas. The beauty of the space, with all of the nativities and trees and artwork, represents that, Jacob said. The young volunteers agreed that the festival gets them ready for the holiday.

Luann Sparks, of Arlington, stopped in because she saw the sign in front of the church. She’s never been to the nativity festival before.

“I love it,” she said. “It’s not something you can rush through. You just enjoy.”

The live music added to the atmosphere and though she was just starting to look at the different nativities, she thought her favorite might be the black bears.

Ron Murray, the second councilor for the stake presidency, said the festival is about Christ but is meant to be a haven for people of all faiths and to bring guests together in the spirit of the holiday.

“It’s open to all,” he said. “Anybody is welcome.”

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com.

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