An event that began more than three decades ago continues to observe the Christ Child as the reason for the Christmas season.
The 36th Festival of the Nativity will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 1:15 to 3 p.m. and 6 to 9 p.m. Dec. 8 at First Presbyterian Church, 309 Lincoln St., downtown Johnstown.
It will feature several local choirs, musical performances and displays of nativity scenes.
The event started when a member of the church wanted to promote the biblical traditions of Christmas within the community.
“She wanted to bring the true meaning of Christmas back, she felt that everybody was so into Santa Claus and the commercial side of it and she wanted to bring the true meaning back,” said Lynne Williams, one of the festival’s committee members.
“We say this is our spiritual gift to the Johnstown community.”
She said the festival continues to grow each year.
“From the beginning we had people from the community involved, it wasn’t just our congregation,” Williams said.
“We have people who call us who want to bring their nativities down, so a lot of our own members have kind of backed off from bringing our stuff so there’s room for the nonmembers’ nativities.”
She said many people return every year to enjoy the music, displays and refreshments.
“We will have people come all three nights and spend their entire evening in the sanctuary listening to the music,” Williams said.
This year more than 100 nativities and scenes from around world and of varying sizes of the birth of Jesus Christ will fill the church.
“I work with this all the time and yet every time I walk into the chapel I see something different,” Williams said. “Most of our church members are geared that whenever we are away any place we look for nativity sets.”
In addition, a children’s room will be available for youngsters, where they will be able to make crafts and participate in storytelling.
Several musical performances also are scheduled, including school and church choirs.
On Friday, the following will perform: 6 p.m. the Rev. James Farrer; 6:30 p.m., St. Benedict Roman Catholic Church’s choir; 7 p.m., Greater Johns-
town Diocesan Festival Choir; and 8 p.m., Kathleen Bumpernick.
On Saturday, the following will perform: 6 p.m. Pitt-Johnstown chorus; 6:30 p.m., Johnstown Reed Band; and 7 p.m., Brass Quintet.
The Dec. 8 finale will feature the following: 1:15 p.m., Retired Men’s Chorus; 1:45 p.m., Diocesan Festival Youth Choir; 2:15 p.m., Emily and Grant Cruse; 2:30 p.m., Allison Miller; 6 p.m., Polish Heritage Choir; 6:30 p.m., Michael Facciani; 7 p.m., Westmont Presbyterian Church choir; 7:15 p.m., Forest Hills High School chorus; 7:30 p.m., Richland High School chorus and orchestra; 8 p.m., Roof Top Singers; 8:15 p.m., Phil Parlock Family; and 8:25 p.m., First Presbyterian Church choir.
“They perform sacred music for the Christmas season,” Williams said. “It’s amazing with the number of groups we usually have different music performed.”
The choruses attending Dec. 8 will combine for a mass choir performance at the conclusion of the festival that will feature more than 100 voices.
“We will perform ‘Carol of the Faithful,’ ‘Still, Still, Still’ with ‘Silent Night’ and we’ll end with the ‘Hallelujah Chorus,’ ” Williams said.
She said for those who attend the hope is they’ll experience the true reason for the season.
“It’s not all the glitz and glamour and Christmas tree lights. There was a baby born, and we celebrate his birth because he changed the world,” Williams said.
For more information on the festival, call 814-536-8141.
Kelly Urban is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. She can be reached at (814) 532-5073. Follow her on Twitter @KellyUrban25.