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Nativities are back for this year's 5 Places of Christmas

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – The Bethel College Women’s Association did so well with their Nativities display last year, they decided to have it again.

As part of “5 Places of Christmas” Dec. 7, the group will display Christmas Nativity sets of all kinds placed “around the circle” in Bethel College’s Fine Arts Center, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

There will be around 100 nativities, said Judy Schrag, Newton, a member of the planning committee for the event, which the group is calling “Nativities Through the Years.”

“We started with an idea of having ‘Nativities from the past, handed down,’” Schrag said. “This will be an all-new display [from last year], with some new contributors.”

Among these is “a man who came from Wichita last year and was so excited by the display, he told us: ‘This is great – if you do it again, let me know, and I’ll bring some.’”

Earle and Betty Rice will indeed be contributing to this year’s event, with about 20 of their Nativities on display.

Other contributors are from Newton and North Newton. They include Schrag, who has collected Nativities for many years.

“Some of the Nativities we’ll have this year are from the past,” Schrag said, “but there are also those that are in the possession of first-generation collectors. They will be handed down as the years go by.

“Each Nativity will be identified by a brief description, with the history of the Nativity, the contributor and the year the Nativity was added to the collection.”

The Nativities will be set up inside the Fine Arts Center, starting at the west door by the parking lot. Schrag emphasized that “this space is very accessible” for those who might need wheelchairs or walkers.

At the end of the tables of Nativities, BCWA will have baked goods and “homemade candy by the pound,” a popular BCWA Christmas item, for sale with all proceeds going to Bethel College – plus free coffee for visitors.

BCWA will also sponsor a Holiday Gift Shop. Among the items for sale will be the new gift book, A BC ABC (a history of Bethel College in limericks and artwork by Bethel alumni and friends), and the 2012 Christmas release Nights of Wonder, a 2-CD compilation of music by Bethel vocal and instrumental groups, recorded at campus Christmas Fests.

The “5 Places of Christmas” open house at Kauffman Museum will highlight the special exhibition “Art That Worked: WPA Art in Newton, 1935-1943.” In the spirit of WPA prints, visitors will make and take 1930s-style block print gift tags (ages 8 and older, young children with supervision).

The museum store is stocked with gifts including hand-crafted items by a number of Bethel alumni: knitting needles by Larry Friesen, Newton; pens by Vernon Pauls, North Newton; wood sculpture by John Gaeddert, North Newton; wheat weaving by Felice Goering, Moundridge; quilling by Karen Andres, Goessel; jewelry by Cindy Beth, Newton, Margret Gaeddert, Newton, Cornelia Krahn, Marshfield, Wis., and Marti Tuck, Erie; and notecards by Rachel Epp Buller, Newton, Lavonne Dyck, Glenbush, Saskatchewan, Eldine Harder, North Newton, Shirley Harms, North Newton, Ruthann Hiebert, Salem, Ore., and Bob Regier, North Newton.

The rest of the “5 Places of Christmas” are all in Newton: Warkentin House (211 East First Street), Carriage Factory Gallery (128 East Sixth Street) and the Harvey County Historical Museum (203 North Main Street).

Admission to all the “5 Places of Christmas” is free. There will be special features at each, Dec. 7 between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2013-14 analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States, and is the highest-ranked Kansas college in the Washington Monthly annual college guide for 2013-14. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see

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