Georgetown live nativity wraps amazing first season

GEORGETOWN – A Sussex County community was united by the presentation of the living nativity on The Circle – a nightly two-week production spurred by the Good Ole Boy Foundation and its outreach network.

Church members act out the live nativity during the Dec. 21 presentation on The Circle. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

“We pray the Living Nativity has blessed your family this Christmas,” the Good Ole Boy Foundation stated in a Dec. 24 posting.

It wrapped up with a candlelight Christmas Eve service.

The overall production drew requests for the live nativity’s return in 2020.

“We’ll just say this: ‘Stay tuned! Something bigger is going to happen next year,” said Good Ole Boy Foundation spokesman Josh Wharton. “We planned this in a week. Give us year.”

“We’ll see how next year plays out, but I’m sure that there is going to be pretty good public cries for us to do something again,” said Good Ole Boy Foundation member K.C. Conaway, who proposed the living nativity idea following community response to a new Georgetown ordinance that prohibited placement of unattended displays, such as a nativity, on The Circle.

K.C. Conaway congratulates a young singer who offered a religious carol during a living nativity presentation.

The display featured a stable/manger scene featuring people and animals.

Fourteen shows were scheduled from Dec. 11 through Dec. 24. Several were canceled due to inclement weather.

Audio and light systems courtesy of Kevin Short/Mid-South Audio accentuated the display, augmented by a Christmas star shining high above the stable and a huge angel just below the star – all visible to westbound traffic on East Market Street.

The mobile stable, built by volunteers and support from the Dukes Lumber family of Rusty, Kolby and Dale Dukes, was rolled to and from The Circle every night. Its temporary home was the Georgetown Fire Company property, a block away.

As word spread of the show, attendance and interest grew.

“You try to gauge how many people have come out each night but it’s hard because people come and people go,” said Mr. Wharton. “But if you think that about 20 to 25 churches have come out. And it’s not just the people you see here. There are people behind the scenes. If we’ve got 25 churches, and there’s 20 people per church, do the math. And that’s only for the cast, not counting the people that come here to see this. It’s not a far cry to say that this has reached thousands of lives.”

And it far exceeded expectations of organizers.

“The support from the community has been phenomenal,” Mr. Wharton said. “When you go out to public places and you overhear conversations of people talking about it, it really lets you know that you hit home.”

“Our expectations have been blown out of the water,” Mr. Conaway said. “It has just been an incredible showing of the community. And not only that just the different churches, different organizations coming together. Different cultures, different denominations, all coming together for one thing, and that is to celebrate the real reason of season – Jesus Christ.”

“It has been a fantastic event for the community,” said Mr. Wharton. “It is really nice to see our community come together not only for Jesus Christ, but just to come together in general. We live in a time … where we feel as if we have different opinions, we can’t get along. And that is not the case. You might like red, I might like blue, but we can still be friends.”

Mr. Conaway would like to see this effort expand throughout the area.

Six-year-old Jalen Lopez of Millsboro is all smiles as she meets Santa Claus, who made a special visit to the Dec. 21 live nativity presentation in Georgetown.

“Hopefully, some of these other churches, some of these other organizations … we’d love this to offshoot to different towns. Not just us doing it, but other people just kind of seeing the model that we have done and put together,” said Mr. Conaway. “We can have a peaceful time together. We can enjoy each other’s company, meet people that we have not seen in 20 years.”

As expected, one of the largest attended nights for the live nativity was Dec. 21, the same evening a group, First State Satanists, with permission granted by the town, held a candlelight vigil on The Circle in observance of the winter solstice.

“You know what? We love them. And Jesus loves them. We’re going to pray for them,” said Mr. Wharton. “We don’t agree with their message but we 100 percent support them being here. They can do what they want so long as it’s peaceful, just like we can. And that’s why we live in the greatest country in the world – and the greatest county.”

At left, one of the hundreds of attendees at the Dec. 21 living nativity presentation sings a carol in Spanish.

Estimates of 800 to 1,000, attended the Dec. 21 live nativity.

“Seeing this tonight, seeing everybody show up just kind of charges us up to do even more possibly next year,” Mr. Conaway said.

Ironically, this shining chapter in 2019 probably would never have occurred had it not been for the backlash and criticism of Georgetown officials following word of a new town ordinance governing use of The Circle that prohibits unattended display and structures.

A local church, Georgetown Wesleyan Church, had previously placed an unattended creche on The Circle.

As an alternative, Mr. Conaway approached the town with a live nativity proposal and a permit was granted. The GOBF network swung into action, support grew, a plan was put in place and within a few days, it was showtime.

But the plan was to do more than just a live nativity.

Two organizations with connections to infants and young children – Sussex Pregnancy Care Center and Sussex County Foster Parent Association – were designated as recipients of requested donations.

“It’s all about a baby. These last two weeks of December are all about a baby, Baby Jesus, and we wanted to help the babies in our community,” said Mr. Wharton.

Free hot chocolate was provided nightly by the Georgetown Fire Company Ladies Auxiliary and helpers, affectionately known as the Angels of Hot Chocolate. There were free cookies, courtesy of auxiliaries, churches and others in the community.

“We wanted to make sure all different ages were included in this endeavor,” Mr. Conaway said. “We wanted to make sure we had parts for little kids; we dressed them up like the animals. We had a couple grandmothers reach out, ‘How can I help? I can’t be out there that night’ You can make cookies. We wanted to make it feel as though it’s kind of far-reaching from the littlest to the oldest where everybody could be a part of this.”

The Hot Chocolate Angels through the Georgetown Fire Company Ladies Auxiliary provided endless servings of hot refreshment to those gathered for the live nativity.

Additionally, gifts such as PlayStation 4s, televisions and the like were given away nightly in a random drawing for children 15 and under who registered. Children who brought donations for either of the two centers received bonus chances.

“We just didn’t want to come up there and put up a display without giving back to the community,” said Mr. Conaway.

While facilitated by the Good Ole Boy Foundation, foundation leaders are quick to point out this was the epitome of a total team effort.

An angel with 11-foot wings and the bright Christmas Star tower above the stable and manger scene in the live nativity.

“First and foremost, Dukes Lumber, Rusty, Kolby and Dale Dukes, they are phenomenal people. Richard and David Wilson, phenomenal contractors with hearts of gold. Warren Reid (Solid Image), Georgetown Fire Department, the Ladies Auxiliary – the Angels of the Hot Chocolate,” said Mr. Wharton. “Georgetown Police Department have been out here every night keeping us safe. And that’s really a big deal. In the world we live in, for them to come out here willingly has been phenomenal.”

Kudos were delivered to: Georgetown Little Caesars; the ladies and churches who made cookies; Jay James of Planned Poultry Renovations for work on the trailer wheels; Iron Source, a longtime GOBF community partner; Mid-South Audio for the lighting and sound; Jim Weller; and The Counting House restaurant on The Circle.

“And last but not least, the Georgetown town council, led by Mayor Bill West and his team. They were put in a bad situation, and they helped us turn a negative into a positive,” said Mr. Wharton. “It has really been a good thing.”

So, come December 2020, Sussex Countians may have an even better reason to stay in Sussex.

“Especially,” said Mr. Conaway, “if you give us a year to plan.”

“Words can’t describe how much this has meant to us,” said Mr. Wharton.

“We never imagined when we started this three weeks ago that we’d have the following and the support and the lives that would be touched through this little act that we’ve done. It was worth every minute when you come out every night and give your time during the holiday season just to show support for the true meaning of the season.”

“So, stayed tuned for next year,” Mr. Wharton added. “Because we can guarantee you it is going to be bigger and better.”