Donkey and Camel Star In Special Live Nativity

In hopes of sharing the Christmas message with as many people as possible, Bob and Virginia Baird are spearheading the staging of several unique live Nativity scenes in Salt Lake City. The Bairds of the West Jordan Utah Bingham Creek Stake have taken the traditional idea of a living Nativity and turned it into a multiple-act production featuring original music and a staff of more than 100 volunteers. "I wanted to make it a musical that really brought people a little closer to the whole spirit of Christmas," Sister Baird said. "It focuses on the Savior and His birth, the purposes of His birth." The production, titled "Echoes of Christmas," includes six live Nativity scenes replete with singing actors who depict Mary, Joseph, shepherds, wise men and other staples of the Christmas story.

Inn Keeper

Live animals include sheep, a camel, goats and a donkey. "I have such a love for the Savior and what He's done for me that I've committed to share His message," Sister Baird said. "The most important thing is, if we can let other people know what His true message is, and that they can feel His love and know how important they are and feel the joy that comes from following the example He sets, then that brings us joy." For the Bairds, it was important for "Echoes of Christmas" to appeal not only to the sensibilities of Church members, but to men and women of other Christian faiths. "It's not just LDS," said Sister Baird. "We've addressed this in a non-denominational structure so that all Christian faiths can enjoy it and be touched by it and bring them closer to the Savior. I believe that all faiths need to walk together on the common ground that we have to preserve our freedom to worship the way we want to." "Echoes of Christmas" is showing from 7 to 9 p.m. nightly, except Sunday, thru Dec. 23 at Liberty Park, located at 900 South 600 East in Salt Lake City. The event is free and lasts approximately 40 minutes — about half of which is spent walking from one scene to the next. For more information, visit Jared Page contributed to this article.

Away In A Manger — Couple Brings Live Nativity Scenes to Liberty Park

There was music and singing, braying of a donkey, and bleating of sheep and goats. There was even a mostly silent camel named Chuck. An appreciative audience toured six live Nativity scenes, serenaded at each stop by actors dressed as Mary, Joseph, shepherds, wise men and other staples of the Christmas story. Our purpose is to reflect upon the origins of the holiday that we celebrate as Christmas, and that is the birth of Jesus Christ," said Bob Baird, who created "Echoes of Christmas" with his wife, Virginia. Baird describes the nondenominational event as "an outdoor search for the meaning of life." The question is posed by a young shepherd at the program's beginning and answered in the final act by a chorus of angels, he said. "Jesus brought the meaning of life, which is love," he said. "The Lord is love." Produced by their nonprofit Peace-Cradle Foundation, the Bairds have taken the idea of a living Nativity and turned it into a multiple-act production featuring original music. Each show runs about 40 minutes, though that includes about 20 minutes of walking time.

Mary and Joseph

"It's a new concept," Baird said. "Instead of having the scenes come to you in the theater, you're going to walk to the scenes." "It was wonderful," said Linda Fairbrother of West Jordan. "I think it has great potential. I can see it growing and growing in years to come." Among the first groups to see the production were about 25 LDS Church youths and their leaders from the Draper and Sandy areas. "It was very spiritual," said Megan Hewett, 15. About 100 volunteers have donated their time, talents and supplies to turn Virginia Baird's 12-year-old idea into reality. "Virginia had the idea for a long time," Bob Baird said. About five years ago, the West Jordan couple plotted out various scenes and the stories they would tell. Then, about a year ago, the Bairds enlisted the help of Utah musician, producer and composer Clive Romney to create an original soundtrack for the show. The music is orchestrated by Larry Bastian. Others helped with making costumes, props or in-kind donations. IFA Country Stores donated $1,600 worth of animal feed to cover Ivie Acres Farm's cost to provide the live animals. "I think this is a really needed event downtown," said Sherrie Ivie, owner and operator of the Herriman farm. "It will be awesome if they can get the community involved and do it again (in future years)." That's the Bairds' hope, too. "This is our gift," Bob Baird said. "We hope we can give this to a lot of people."