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The spirit of Christmas
McMinnville Nativity Festival puts focus on Christ's birth
Nativity festival
Miriam Crawford stands by items set for display at the sixth annual McMinnville Nativity Festival. The three-day festival is scheduled for next weekend at 562 Shangri La Lane, just off the bypass.

The sixth annual McMinnville Nativity Festival will be celebrating the story of Jesus Christ’s birth through hundreds of nativity sets and pieces of artwork created by both local and global artists.

The festival will begin this Friday, Dec. 13 at 5 p.m. and is free and open to the public. Around 350 nativity sets from throughout the region and around the world will be on display for the public to view free of charge. The sets are made from glass, wood, metal, ceramic, pottery, yarn, paper, clay, fabric and various other materials.

“This is an amazing holiday event,” said Miriam Crawford, one of the organizers. “It’s free to the public, and it draws visitors back again and again. We hope it will be touching and it’s all free, which is also in the spirit of Christmas.”

Some of the products are mass-produced while others are one of a kind. Many come from several countries. The event will host an international nativity area featuring sets from over 20 countries, including Uganda, Rwanda, Mexico, Ethiopia, Bahamas, the Amazon, Japan, Guatemala, Israel, Russia, India and many more.

Crawford said the number of nativities is kept around 350 so each piece can be appreciated.

“More than that and it gets to be too much,” said Crawford. “We take time to give each set a nice presentation so each one can be enjoyed.”

One of the newest sets to be featured this year is a three-foot tall piece of driftwood, pulled from the Tennessee River, which serves as a stable for the holy family made from pottery and surrounded by bluebirds, owls, sheep, a lamb and a lion.

Each set has its own unique properties and will depict the birth of Jesus Christ according the artist’s interpretation. The organization depends upon people from the community to share their collected nativity sets for this event.

“Our goal is to bring a little bit of magic into your holiday time in hopes that you will feel something wonderful. If that happens, we have done our job,” says Crawford, who estimates it takes work from around 200 volunteers to make the annual event happen. “It takes hundreds of man hours from scores of volunteers to pull this event together each year.”

Many fine art prints will be displayed to depict the life of Jesus Christ. A Bethlehem village by Fontanini of Italy will be set up in a miniature fashion to represent what life may have been like in the location and time when Jesus was born. 

Local craftsman will display Christmas quilts while showing the talent within the area. Five large and nearly life-sized hand painted murals will be at the event. Cookeville artisan Robin Hill has painted these unique pieces over the past few years and will be showing these at the McMinnville Nativity Festival. 

Most of the nativity sets are only for viewing purposes, but there’s a children’s room with sets available for to be touched and played with. Other activities include kids dressing up and having their pictures made in front of a handmade stable. Craft items can be created for decorations or as keepsakes. A scavenger hunt will allow children to search and find certain items with a reward presented to the winners.

For 2019, a collection of nutcrackers belonging to Morrison Mayor Sue Anderson will be featured. Anderson has over 500 nutcrackers in her collection. Hundreds of poinsettias and twinkling lights on Christmas trees will help set the stage for the holiday-inspired atmosphere and displays.

“We are excited to share this gift to the community, and we encourage everyone to come out and see the festival,” said Crawford.

The indoor event is free and open to all ages. The facility is handicap accessible and there is ample parking. The McMinnville Nativity Festival will be a three-day celebration beginning Friday, Dec. 13 from 5 to 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 14 from 3 to 8 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 15 from 2 to 5 p.m. The location is 562 Shangri La Lane in McMinnville.