The annual live nativity scene at Palm Coast’s Parkview Church will be a walk-through event this year.
This is the church’s 14th year featuring a living nativity scene, but in past years participants would drive their cars through the different scenes. The nativity was canceled in 2022 because of construction on Parkview’s new auditorium building.
The walk-through experience will tell the same story of Jesus Christ’s birth, but in a completely new way, Parkview Communication Director Cassandra Hartman said.
“Even somebody who has been coming to the living nativity for the past 12 or 14 years — they’ll want to come again, because it’s going to be very different than what they may have experienced in the past,” she said.
The nativity will be shown from 6-8 p.m. Dec. 13-16. The past drive-thru events have drawn around 300 cars a night on the low end, so Parkview added a fourth night to accommodate more people, Hartman said.
Participants will park at the Indian Trails Sports Complex, and tractor-drawn hayrides will take people to the church.
Hartman said there will be an alternate mode of transportation to the church for those with difficulties.
The story begins at the gates of Jerusalem.
The walk-through will feature over 100 live cast members who act out scenes while a pre-recorded, looped script narrates the story.
“They’ll be in a fully immersive experience — like they’re in Bible times walking through the marketplace,” Hartman said.
Parkview will also have a petting zoo and a café area with complimentary cocoa and cookies.
Hartman said attendees will also be able to purchase Sweet Melissa’s Homemade Ice Cream and food from Chick-fil-A.
At the end of the nativity, after the café area, Parkview has set up what Hartman called “a prayer walk.” The church is reusing banners with scriptures about Christ’s birth, death and resurrection as the final element of the walk-through nativity, she said.
“You can take some time to reflect and read them, pray through them and just get excited about the reason for Christmas,” Hartman said.
Executive Pastor Derek Overton said the nativity started as a four-scene, one-minute drive-through event.
“And then this year, we’re super excited because it’s an actual event,” he said. So here we are 14 years later reinventing ourselves again.”
Overton said the experience will be more immersive than a drive-through experience could be.
People will feel like they are walking through the gates of Jerusalem, he said.
“I think it will be a very family-friendly thing,” he said. “...There aren’t a whole lot of go to places for the whole family [for Christmas in Palm Coast].”
The change is in part out of necessity — Parkview is constructing a new, 17,200 square-foot, 700-person auditorium building to fit its growing congregation, and construction makes it impossible to host a drive-through event, Hartman said.
“We’re running at max capacity on almost all four services most weekends,” she said. “So we’re very excited to have a larger facility to where we are not packed in like sardines.”
Construction began in November 2022, the building will be ready for the congregation by early to mid-February, Overton said.
Renovations will then immediately begin on the old auditorium building, which will be remodeled for the church’s family ministry events and should be ready by early summer 2024, he said.
Hartman said the team has worked to create a high-quality living nativity event that they are all proud of, similar to something that might be seen at Disney.
“Because we have a greater message, our quality needed to at least be on par with that kind of production,” she said.
Sierra Williams is a staff writer for the Palm Coast Observer covering a variety of topics, including government and crime. She graduated from the University of Central Florida in 2021 with her bachelor's degree in print/digital journalism and a minor in political science. Sierra moved to Palm Coast in September 2022 and is a Florida native from Brevard County.