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

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.

Most Read This Week

April 28, 2015 4102

Search for Stolen Vehicle Ends with Woman Charged…

by SurfKY News
April 27, 2015 3443

Online Petition Seeking Re­opening of Shanice…

by Samantha Carver, SurfKY News
April 28, 2015 3302

Man Charged with Stalking Smoke Shop Clerk

by MPD
April 27, 2015 2856

Hopkins County Drug War ― Are We Winning?

by Doreen Dennis, SurfKY News
April 30, 2015 2744

Family Says 'Goodbye' to Dog After It Allegedly…

by Doreen Dennis, SurfKY News

Most Read This Month

April 17, 2015 15400

An Open Letter from an Addict

by Olivia Kirks
April 23, 2015 8439

Man Charged with Sodomy, Incest/Victim under 12

by SurfKY News

Stories Trending Now

May 03, 2015 1115

Two Injured During Two-Vehicle Collision

by SurfKY News
May 03, 2015 718

Faith Baptist Hosts Family Fun Day

by Tammy Holloway, SurfKY News
May 02, 2015 590

Baptist Health Hosts Annual ‘Bike Safety Day’

by Gary Gates, SurfKY News
May 03, 2015 537

Dave Says - May 3, 2015

by Dave Ramsey
May 02, 2015 478

Conquering the clutter: Cleanliness with kids is…

by SurfKY News
May 03, 2015 392

Legislator's Log - Week of May 3, 2015

by Brent Yonts
May 03, 2015 353

2015 Correctional Employees' Week Celebrated…

by Michael Caudill
May 03, 2015 341

Outdoor Truths – May 3, 2015

by Gary Miller
May 03, 2015 316

Keeping the Faith - 'You Are Stuck With You'

by Ronnie McBrayer
May 03, 2015 205

State Registered Nurse Aide Pinning Ceremony at…

by HCS Publication Team