A long line of vehicles proceeded contemplatively down Kanab’s Main Street on December 10, 2023, witnessing a series of carefully lit scenes arranged on the side of the road, all to a recorded narration, providing a living montage telling the story of the Nativity - and with live actors representing each of the characters, even in the cold of the evening. This display is Kanab’s Live Nativity, and 2023 was the third year running to have the Nativity in this drive-along format, with the performance itself existing in one form or another as far back as 2013.
Left to right, photos by Rob and Tammie VanDyke:
The finale scene by the Kanab High School brought the spirit of the evening home.
Colt Henderson and family, along with Nathan Brown, portraying shepherds on this chilly night.
Matthew Alldrege, wife Vanesa and baby Elias portray Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus.
According to event organizer Rob Van Dyke, “Three years in, and my wife and I tag team putting it together. She does the costumes and rounds up the volunteers to participate, including those that have animals. I put the audio narration together and do the publicity. We always get a small crew to help us set up the day before and take down on Monday. This year we had close to 50 people involved in making it happen.”
The Nativity, told in stages, allowed for a wide cast of volunteers of both the human and animal variety, with donkeys, goats and other farm animals to participate in the classically pastoral scene - and that’s both meanings of pastoral. With choirs to sing ‘in exultation,’ agrarian shepherds with sheep aplenty, mule mounted wisemen the Nativity was told in a way that emphasizes the story’s themes of life, birth, joy and redemption - culminating, of course, with a manger scene, right down to the baby playing a part of the infant Jesus Christ. Matthew Alldredge, who played father Joseph opposite his wife Vanesa as mother Mary and their baby boy Elias as the role of baby Jesus, responded to a compliment of the finale scene with “I know, right? That Mary was pretty cute.”
While this year was the third annual instance of Kanab’s performance of the drive-along scenes, the history of the town’s Nativity scene goes much further back - in fact, this year was the tenth anniversary of the tradition of the live Nativity.
According to Van Dyke, the first time was in 2013, and the community got more and more involved from there; “In 2014, the high school art class refurbished [a] nativity set and displayed it in advance of the live nativity. The event then transitioned to the high school football field with recorded music, animals and a full-sized Nativity and Bethlehem scene. In 2020, we weren’t able to do it due to the Pandemic … then in 2021 we transitioned to the drive-along live Nativity. This was my wife Tammie’s idea, this year is the third year.”
According to the Alldredges, the performance of the live Nativity is simple enough for all its significance; “Saturday morning, there was some setup for each of the scenes. For costumes, Tammie just handed us the clothes, told us where to be, and that was all.”
The recording that played along with the live Nativity summed up the whole purpose of the evening quite succinctly, putting forward a request to the viewers, “as you witness the scenes depicting our Lord and Savior’s birth, to open up a place for Him in your heart.”