The annual Christmas outreach produced by Grace Polaris, a Grace Brethren congregation in Columbus, Ohio (Mike Yoder, lead pastor), is featured in today’s Columbus Dispatch about organizations that rent animals for Christmas pageants. Grace Polaris engages a company to supply camels an donkeys for their Living Christmas Trees program, which marks its 26th season this year. A portion of the story appears below. Read the complete story here.
Holiday season boosts animal rentals
The season for live Nativities yields requests from churches and other organizations for animal rentals.
Bingo the miniature donkey is booked up this weekend.
So are various sheep, camels and other creatures as the season for live Nativity scenes — re-creations of the birth of Jesus — arrives. Renting animals can be an expensive proposition, but organizers say the animals are real crowd-pleasers. …
…Every year, Grace Polaris Church, 8225 Worthington-Galena Rd., puts on “Living Christmas Trees,” a holiday spectacular with actors, musicians and vocalists tiered on risers in the shape of a Christmas tree.
A highlight of the show — which blends a contemporary plot with the Nativity story — is the entrance of the camels.
“The ticket office will tell you that so many people call and ask, ‘Is this the show with the camels?’ ” said Bill Palmateer, a church spokesman.
The camels are supplied by Swine Time Pig Racing, a Wisconsin company that has worked with the show for 10 years.
Grace could undoubtedly find camels in Ohio, said Matt Schoebel, whose family owns Swine Time.
“Now, finding one that performs for a theatrical event may be a little harder to come by,” he said.
The camels in the show are used to the large crowds, bright lights and music. They casually duck through low doorways (padded so they don’t bruise their humps) and are led down the aisles while spectators gawk.
Getting them to perform is largely a matter of handing out carrots as a reward for hitting their marks onstage, Schoebel said.
Each camel has a handler who dresses in costume, and an all-important cleanup person trails the caravan.
“Somebody’s got to have a broom handy at all times,” Schoebel said.
Bringing the camels plus a donkey and a horse to Columbus, boarding them at a farm between shows (the church does 12 of them over three weekends) and paying the expenses of their handlers costs thousands, Palmateer said. (Schoebel wouldn’t say how much he charges.)