The celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ came to life during the first Picton Christmas Carnival on Saturday, as members of the Emmanuel Baptist Church transformed Ross Street into a live nativity scene.
The smell of fresh straw and sounds of live donkeys, sheep and camels accented the scene. Actors and narrators welcomed 3,000 visitors to walk through and listen to biblical accounts from the New Testament book of Mathew.
“When I first heard the about it, I couldn’t imagine doing this and being apart of something like this,” said Nathan St. Pierre, of Milford, who played one of three wisemen. “It fills me with joy to see everyone here. I’m warm with Christmas spirit.”
“It’s amazing,” said Randi-Lee Desjarlais of Picton. “It’s a great idea walking from scene to scene to learn about the birth of Jesus. It’s great for families to get out and enjoy the day.”
“I am amazed by the turn out,” said Pastor Peter Spragg, of the Emmanuel Baptist Church in Bloomfield. “The street is filled with people. We hope the whole event has been good for Picton. We wanted it to be good for the businesses too.”
The carnival was sponsored by the church in partnership with the Picton BIA with donations going to the Pleasant Bay Children’s Camp and Picton and Wellington food banks.
So far, $12,000 has been raised for the camp and Spragg said more donations are still coming in.
But storytelling and donating to a good cause weren’t the only highlights of the event.
The community enjoyed wagon rides, a live petting zoo; Christmas treats and eats, a puppet show, face painting and much more.
For most young children the camel rides seemed to take centre stage.
“The camels were my favourite part of the carnival,” said 12-year-old Galen Swackhammer, of Wellington. “They’re bigger than the ones at the Toronto Zoo.”
Three camels travelled from the Bowmanville zoo to be apart of the festivities.
Prior to the event there was some stir from a few local residents wanting to ban the camels from the County and hoped council would not allow an exemption to the exotic animal bylaw.
Michael Hackenberger, director of the zoo, described the camels as domesticated.
“1.5 billion people see our animals every year in movies and at live events,” said Hackenberger. “We’ve never had a complaint.”
To those who feel camels should not be part of educating the public Hackenberger quoted Jimmy Buffet, “If you haven’t seen the scene, don’t describe the scenery.”
Young Swackhammer said he’s been attending church his whole life and feels the festivities, including the camels, was important in teaching the community about the meaning of Christmas.
Afterward, the Christmas cheer spread to the Regent Theatre where the Emmanuel Band and County Kidz Choir performed a variety of classic and new age Christmas carols.
Despite the rain and cold on Sunday, Santa came to town! Umbrellas canopied parade goers along the route. Surprised spectators enjoyed watching one of the marching bands take brief refuge under the Regent’s marquee (see video).
A special message from the Picton BIA – Thank you to everyone who took part in the parade today despite the nasty weather. To Frank, David, Kevin, Lori, Matt, Debbie, Norman and Julie – well done gang. To the bands and floats, walkers and animals, thanks so much for showing up. And lastly, to all of the spectators who lined the streets in the rain, thanks for coming out in support of the Picton parade. We planned everything, but could not control the weather.
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