return to_Bethlehem_1MADISONVILLE, KY (12/8/12) – Tomorrow will mark the beginning of the 17th annual Return to Bethlehem (RTB) event at First Baptist Church in Madisonville. Donna McMurtrie, Chair of the RTB committee, spoke with SurfKY News today, providing information and history of the event.

“It’s an interpretation of what the city of Bethlehem would have been like on the night Christ was born,” McMurtrie said. There will be a recreation of the city, with 25 shops where the shopkeepers, played by volunteers, will be hard at work crafting their wares.

“At that time, the homes were two stories,” she explained. “The people lived upstairs, and they kept the animals downstairs. That’s basically what people are doing in their shops. They’re selling their wares. There’s pottery, blacksmithing, and carpentry. They’re dying cloth. They’re baking bread. There’s a stone carver. We actually have a fish market with real fish. We have a tanning shop where they tan hides. The shops are a method of interacting with the people, but our main story is that they’ve heard that a baby was born that night.”

McMurtrie said that 500 church members are involved in the effort, including the cast of characters inside city and staff in sanctuary, who will be giving the cast their biblical names and sending them on to orientation where they will learn their roles and what to expect playing the part of shopkeepers, beggars, and other characters from Bethlehem on the night Christ was born.

There is no cost to attend, but beggars will collect donations, which will go to the cost of the event. McMurtrie said that, after 17 years, First Baptist has organizing RTB down to a science, and it only costs the church about $4,000 to put on the event.

“The majority of that is for the animals that we have,” she said. Those who have attended RTB expect to see the menagerie, including the camels that are a favorite of visitors annually. The animals are provided by Jeff Baird of Morganfield, KY. He creates stall in the church’s bus barn to house the camels, and the rest of the animals stay in the city all weekend. “He tends to them every day … but we begin to smell very authentic by Tuesday,” she laughed.

RTB will run from December 8th to the 11th. On Saturday, Monday and Tuesday, the hours are from 5:00 to 8:00 PM. On Sunday, it will be open for two hours from 2:00 to 4:00 PM. Groups of 20 may call and make reservations so they don’t have to wait as long.

“Sometimes the wait can be two hours or more, but we have entertainment going constantly in the sanctuary, so people don’t seem to mind to wait.” She said that community members will be singing and playing piano and there will even be a string quartet pacifying the waiting throngs.

McMurtrie encourages visitors to not wait until the last day, Tuesday, to come to RTB if at all possible, as that seems to be the day with the largest crowds. The busiest year for RTB drew 9,000 visitors, and the event usually averages about 7,500 over the four days it’s held.

“That’s about all we can get through,” McMurtrie said. “We try not to crowd it, and we want them to take their time when they go through the city to absorb it.”

return to_Bethlehem_2Casey Piscitelli
SurfKY News

e-max.it: your social media marketing partner

LIKE SurfKY on Facebook - Click here to LIKE us now.

© Copyright 2015 SurfKY News Group, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, or rewritten without permission. SurfKY News encourages you to share this story on social media.

In Other News...

UPDATE - OPD Investigates Boiler Room Robbery

OWENSBORO, Ky. (8/27/15) — According to an Owensboro Police Department report, OPD has charged two persons believed to… Read More

Upcoming Events at Land Between the Lakes

KENTUCKY (8/27/15) — Land Between the Lakes offers a variety of fun programs for all ages and interests. Friday and… Read More
1 DOW 16,654.77
+369.26 (2.27%)    
2 S&P 1,987.66
+47.15 (2.43%)    
3 NASDAQ 4,812.71
+115.17 (2.45%)    

Most Read This Week

August 24, 2015 10325

Teen Reports Slasher Attempted to Attack Him on…

by Doreen Dennis, SurfKY News
August 24, 2015 5729

Alleged Burglar Calls 911 to Report Fire

by SurfKY News
August 22, 2015 4856

Hopkins County Grand Jury Indictments

by SurfKY News
August 24, 2015 4794

UPDATE: Four Dead, Two Survive Boating Accident

by SurfKY News
August 24, 2015 3744

MPD Coducting Sobriety Checkpoints

by SurfKY News

Most Read This Month

August 06, 2015 14183

Muhlenberg Woman Reportedly Suffers Violent…

by SurfKY News
August 24, 2015 10325

Teen Reports Slasher Attempted to Attack Him on…

by Doreen Dennis, SurfKY News

Stories Trending Now

August 27, 2015 2726

All is Well after MNHHS Lockdown

by Doreen Dennis, SurfKY News
August 26, 2015 2058

Man Charged with Theft, Meth, Marijuana Growing

by SurfKY News
August 26, 2015 1286

Crime Stoppers Top Most Wanted - August 26, 2015

by SurfKY News
August 27, 2015 1233

Kentucky Career Center Blood Drive Aug. 31

by SurfKY News
August 26, 2015 1166

Hanson Agrees to Take Compensating Rate on Tax…

by Tammy Holloway, SurfKY News
August 26, 2015 1113

KSP Seeking Information to Assist 'Slasher'…

by Doreen Dennis, SurfKY News
August 26, 2015 1007

Madisonville Police Arrest Reports Released -…

by SurfKY News
August 26, 2015 909

Legislators Preview Election 2015

by KET
August 26, 2015 667

UPDATE - Missing Juvenile Found

by SurfKY News
August 26, 2015 666

Two Chicago Men Indicted for Multi-State Cargo…

by SurfKY News