Frightful weather doesn't stop local live nativity scene
CHAMPAIGN — The weather outside was frightful Sunday evening, but it didn't prevent the members of the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Champaign from putting on a live nativity scene as part of the seventh annual Nativity Walk.
Participants braved snowy weather and 26-degree temperatures to deliver an outdoor production depicting the birth of Jesus, complete with shepherds, angels and live animals.
Mary Corkery of Urbana said she was bundled up for her role as the Virgin Mary.
"When I heard there was going to be snow, I thought I would need to wear more layers," Corkery said.
Joseph Davis of Champaign said he volunteered for the role of Joseph because it was important to present the Christmas story to the people of the area, regardless of how cold it was.
"It is pretty cold out here, but it it's not that bad," said Jenny Johnson of Champaign, who portrayed an angel at the wooden stable constructed specifically for Sunday's event. "The weather this evening helps to make the experience more like real life."
The humans weren't the only participants with meaningful parts to play at the live nativity.
Justin O'Brien of Champaign, portraying a shepherd, helped keep an eye on a donkey and two goats at the manger scene.
"One of them tried to get out every now and then," he said.
Jennifer Byers-York, evangelism chairwoman for the event, said that, while this is the seventh year for the nativity walk (which featured more than 100 nativity sets from around the world, live music, an ice sculpture and a holiday cafe), this marked the first time the church added a live nativity scene.
"We decided to add a live set because we have had such interest in the nativity sets from around the world," Byers-York said. "We decided we would proceed with this, rain or shine."
She said it is the church's hope that the live nativity experience will help to tell the story of the birth of Jesus to area residents who might not yet know the tale.
"It helps people to focus this season on the birth of Christ," she said. "This is our gift to the community."
Byers-York said members of St. Matthew's Lutheran Church in Urbana and Grace Lutheran Church also contributed to the event.
"We believe that we would like to do this each year, weather permitting," she said.
Meanwhile, public-works crews from throughout the area worked Sunday to keep local streets clear of snow.
John Collins, operations manager for Urbana public works, said a crew of seven had been salting roads since early Sunday morning.
"In town, our residential and primary streets and parking lots are holding up pretty well," Collins said Sunday evening. "It is a lot worse on the township roads where they haven't salted or treated the roads."
Collins expected another crew of seven or eight people to take over in Urbana after midnight.
"The big thing we're doing right now is fighting off freezing drizzle and cooler temperatures." Collins said.
Kris Koester, administrative services supervisor for Champaign public works, said a crew of 15 people worked to keep city streets clear from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday.
"We had salted on Friday to prepare for a storm that didn't come that day, so we were ahead of the game on that," Koester said.
Koester said a second crew was scheduled to address ice or snow on bridges and overpasses between 9 p.m. Sunday and 2 a.m. Monday.
Tracy Wingler, maintenance supervisor for the Champaign County Highway Department, said eight trucks were pouring salt on county highways Sunday evening.
"We put a lot of salt down on Sunday morning, and it worked throughout the day until it re-froze on Sunday evening," Wingler said. "We hope to be finished salting by midnight."
Rantoul Public Works Director Greg Hazel said he had two trucks salting major intersections in that community Sunday morning.
"We had a light dusting on Sunday morning, probably a half-inch at most," Hazel said. "Then we had a mix of precipitation that started at 5 p.m. Sunday. We're watching the weather and may send people back out in the morning."