PLEASANT VIEW -- A seven-year tradition here of sharing community Nativity displays will open today with an interfaith emphasis.
Churches of all congregations from throughout the area will participate today, Friday and Saturday in the "Come and Behold Him" Community Christmas Creche Display sponsored by the Pleasant View stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The event will feature displays of more than 1,000 creche displays from all around the world, a live Nativity scene, live musical entertainment, a children's Nativity room with hands-on displays, and a family photo room with costumes for participants to borrow for their pictures.
"We've gone out this year and met with pastors and priests and fathers from all the different congregational churches from the north part of Ogden to get them to not just come and watch it, but to be a part of it," said Kevin Bailey, director of the interfaith creche display effort.
While organizers each year have tried to make the event an interfaith gathering, this year the effort was increased.
"This time, it's very interfaith," he said. "It's a way for all of us to come together for a common cause and not have the separation of different beliefs get in the way."
The event runs each day from noon to 8 p.m. at the Pleasant View Stake Center, 2975 N. 1000 West.
Organizers say the event has become a much-anticipated attraction, with visitors coming from all over, including out of state. Last year, more than 5,000 visitors attended.
Bailey said the creche displays from around the world catch visitors off guard by the deep messages created as people from many different cultures have expressed themselves in their art.
"People come expecting to see just another church display," he said. "But it's not.
"When they come, they really are moved to experience the true meaning of Christmas because of what they see."
Bailey said the event was designed only as an effort to create and share the spirit of Christmas, not as a missionary tool for his church.
"This elaborate display is a true labor of love with over 3,000 volunteer man hours put in to organize, set up, supervise and take down the hundreds of Nativities and decorations," states a news release about the event.
While there are creche displays as small as a grain of rice and as large as a full-size person, organizers have made a cross-stitch representation of Christ the central attraction this year.
It was created by the late Gladys Seethaler, a Pleasant View woman who was 72 and had advancing Alzheimer's disease at the time she created the work.
The cross-stitch is a re-creation of a painting by Greg Olson, a popular LDS artist whose art Seethaler enjoyed.
"In 2002 she began to fail quickly," Seethaler's daughter, Sharlene Call, wrote about her mother in a historical account.
She wrote that despite her failings, her mother worked to cross-stitch from the bottom of the painting upward to where the Savior's robes were at the shoulders.
"It had taken her several months to reach the shoulders and suddenly she was unable to continue upward to the Savior's face without making several mistakes," she wrote.
"She unpicked the stitches several times and refused to move to the Savior's face, since she wanted that part of the picture to be perfect."
Call wrote of her mother becoming discouraged.
"Then, as she told us, the Savior appeared to her in a dream and offered to help complete the rest of the cross-stitched canvas," Call wrote. "She said, as tears flowed down her face and mine, 'He told me every stitch to take as I finished his face and then the rest of the picture.'"
Call wrote that those who view the cross-stitch can see where her mother had trouble keeping the colors even at the shoulders but they don't find the same mistakes in the Savior's face.
In addition to the cross-stitch and the many Nativities on display will be more than 10,000 lights and more than 500 poinsettias adorning the area.
Music from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. today and Friday and all day Saturday will be presented by individuals, who were not named by organizers, and the following groups:
* Starting at 5 p.m. today and rotating every half hour will be Sound Choice; MaryJo Elmer on the strings; Matt Pond; Laura Vallejo; and Cammie Titus and Dixie Higgs together.
* Starting at 6 p.m. Friday will be the First United Methodist Church Chancel Choir and Handbell Choir, who will perform for one hour, and the Weber State Alumni Singers, who will also perform for one hour.
* Beginning at 4:30 p.m. Saturday will be Laraine States, Brett Cragun and friends, Jaremy Hoopes, Kevin Hull, and the Flute Choir and Davis family.
To reach this year's Community Christmas Creche Display from outside the area, take the Farr West and Pleasant View Exit 349 from Interstate 15. Head east on 2700 North. Turn north on 1000 West, and the stake center is on the west side of the road.