This traditional Christmas carol, sung widely throughout the English-speaking world, lyrically paints the scene of the baby Jesus nestled in hay, in a barn or a cave, while His parents look on as He is visited by shepherds, their animals and the Three Wise Men.
There is no finer a representation of this iconic scene representing the birth of Jesus than this year’s “Come Let Us Adore Him” Interfaith Crèche Exhibit in Midway.
Over 250 crèches (also known as nativity scenes) from all over the world will be displayed amongst beautiful Christmas settings at the Community Center. This spectacular collection will showcase representations of the Holy Family in a wide variety of media, including scenes made from hand-carved wood, porcelain, fabric and more.
Behind The Crèche Scenes
Every year, visitors stroll through aisles of displays where “all is calm.” Parents point out nativities to their children in a whisper. Faithful onlookers reverently study the face of Mary. Every child silently looks for a sleeping baby Jesus. Yet many are unaware of the work and attention to detail required for the event to take place.
Beginning in October, the 250 crèches must be gathered, unwrapped, catalogued and placed. In 2018, it took a group of eight talented designers to transform the Community Center into the perfect Christmas setting with handcrafted themed backdrops built to resemble Bethlehem. This year, more than 150 volunteers will help with set-up and tear down, and serve as hosts and greeters during the event.
We have the Midway Boosters to thank for making the Interfaith Crèche Exhibit free to the Heber Valley every year. An active community organization that provides funding for scholarships to high school students in the Heber Valley, the Midway Boosters is also active in providing grants to support and launch new community events to drive tourists and economic growth to Midway.
This annual event, however, tugs at the heart strings. “Crèche is a gift to the community; a labor of love,” says Jody Klotovich, chairperson of the 2019 crèche exhibit and outgoing president of the Midway Boosters.
Jody admits that she “didn’t even know what crèche was” when she joined the Boosters. Several years ago, when Jody was just starting to get involved with the event, now-Mayor Celeste Johnson was heading the crèche effort and needed help. An integral part of Midway’s holiday season, Mayor Johnson feels strongly about the event: “It fits beautifully for the town.” Jody now credits the mayor’s involvement years ago and her continued interest as one of the reasons why the crèche exhibit remains an annual event.
In its inception, the Midway Interfaith Crèche Exhibit started with help from local churches. The churches got the word out, provided volunteers and asked congregants to lend their personal crèches to the exhibit. The event has grown substantially over the years, and there are plans to reach out to the interfaith community to secure additional crèche exhibits and volunteers to ensure that the event continues to flourish in the years to come.
The Making Of A Christmas Tradition
The Midway Community Center is not the only place to find a wealth of crèche displays; nay — just look to the house upon the hill.
Holly Zenger’s home, where she resides with her husband Jack, houses one of the largest and most diverse private collections of crèches in the country and, perhaps, the world.
Holly smiles when asked about the exact size of her collection. Her eyes twinkle, “Not as many as I want, but more than what I need.”
A native Utahn, Holly and a few friends started a crèche display while living in Palo Alto, California. Their exhibit was nationally recognized, with Sunset Magazine citing it as one of the places to go during the holiday season.
When Holly moved to Midway decades ago, the Christmas exhibit moved with her. And it grew.
As a founding board member and a current board member of Friends of the Crèche, Holly has the opportunity to share both her passion and knowledge of crèche with the Heber Valley community. Created to promote the study of crèche as well as the creation and collection of nativity scenes worldwide, the organization has led to Holly attending conferences in both the United States and Europe. In her travels, she’s had the opportunity to view and acquire crèches from around the world, supplementing her collection with a wide variety of crèches that showcase different cultures. One such crèche on display: a rare Fontanini Bethlehem Village.
In 1997, Holly and Jack first opened their home to share her treasures. Despite parking challenges, an estimated 4,000 people toured the exhibit in their home. Twenty years later, Holly repeated her open house — and she plans to host viewing at her home again this year.
When it comes to showing her collection, Holly explains that the “exhausting part is setting it up,” as nearly every room in her house is filled with multiple nativities. She credits her two sisters and a core group of supporters – including Katherine Hall, Randy Moore and Renae Bushman — for the set-up assistance. When asked why she chooses to have a month-long open house — a month is a long time to have strangers in your home — Holly remarks, “It takes a lot of people and time to set-up. That’s why I keep it so long.” Last year, in lieu of an open house, elements of Holly’s crèche collection were on display at the BYU Library for the holiday season.
In speaking with Holly about the opportunities she’s experienced thanks to crèches, of course she turns the conversation to the “opportunities” available to the Holy Family in Bethlehem all those years ago. One thing is certain: just like the true nativity, no matter the setting — cave, house, barn, stable — the Midway crèche exhibits are sure to recreate the magic and wonder of the season.
19th Annual Interfaith Crèche Exhibit
Friday, December 6 –
Monday, December 9
11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Midway Community Center
Last year an estimated 6,000 attendees viewed the family-friendly exhibit during the Christmas season. In the past, an outdoor live nativity scene — complete with the requisite animals — served as the perfect backdrop for family photos.
Admission is free for all and the entire event is wheelchair-accessible.
The Zenger Crèche Exhibit
View Holly’s collection of crèche from around the world!
Open to the public the first three weekends in December (including Mondays). Group visits are available on weekdays by appointment.
275 Luzen Road, Midway
For more information, call 435-654-6604.