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26th year of nativity pageant, building bridges in Canadian community

The annual Newmarket Ward Nativity Pageant in Ontario, Canada has brought the real story of the Savior's birth to the Town of Newmarket for the four nights before Christmas.
The annual Newmarket Ward Nativity Pageant in Ontario, Canada has brought the real story of the Savior's birth to the Town of Newmarket for the four nights before Christmas.
Joanne Anderson

NEWMARKET, Ontario — Every year since 1987, in snow, sleet, rain or clear skies, the Newmarket Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has presented an outdoor nativity pageant with speaking roles and live animals from Dec. 21 to 24. There are two performances each evening Dec. 21-23 and one performance on Christmas Eve and each year 7,000 to 10,000 people attend.

There's been only one evening in 25 years that the pageant was canceled due to bad weather.

The ward partners with the city of Newmarket, Ontario, Canada, to produce the pageant to remember the birth of the Savior and all he has done for mankind. Many local businesses and local organizations also help out.

Between 80 and 100 volunteers, including local LDS Church members and residents, work to put on the pageant. Mayors, members of the town council, members of the federal Parliament and members of the provincial Parliament have also participated.

Starting from humble beginnings in the church parking lot, the pageant was moved to Fairy Lake Park in downtown Newmarket on Water Street.

A few days before the pageant starts, animals are brought onto the set where they stay overnight for a few nights. One year, a lamb was born at the pageant.

Some people play the same roles every year. Some people are in the pageant every year with their children and grandchildren.

In 2012, the Newmarket Ward held a door-to-door food drive. As members requested food items from the people of Newmarket, many householders mentioned, "you are the church who puts on the pageant every year."

At a special ceremony last year, the city of Newmarket, Ontario, Canada, proclaimed Dec. 21, 2012, as "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Day." The proclamation marked the 25th anniversary of a Nativity pageant held in Newmarket every year. Newmarket is a city of 85,000 people 30 miles north of Toronto. A plaque with the proclamation was presented to the Newmarket Ward.

At pageant time, the city of Newmarket places ads in the local newspaper to advertise the event and the church's involvement is mentioned. There has been good local media coverage of the pageant as well as coverage from the Toronto Star, Canada's largest daily newspaper.

Because of the involvement with the city of Newmarket, the Newmarket Ward has an excellent relationship with the mayor, members of the town council and city staff. This relationship has opened other doors for the church. One member of the Newmarket Ward serves on one of the boards for the city, the Inclusivity Advisory Committee. The Newmarket Ward has also partnered with Newmarket on various ward projects such as painting over graffiti, cleaning up parks and cleaning up forests. The ward supplies the labor while the city provides the necessary items for the project. Friendships have developed between ward members and the city staff.

Performances this year are Dec. 21, 22 and 23 at 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. and on Dec. 24 at 7 p.m.

See www.mormonnewsroom.ca for a list of nativity re-enactments across Canada?

Ken Sisler is the assistant director of public affairs for the Barrie Ontario Stake. His email is ken.sisler@rogers.com.