Giant Nativity to light up Thursday night

It takes about 30 people to put up every year and needs no one to run it every night through Christmas Eve. What some say is one of the largest Nativity scenes in the world is on Grand Haven's Dewey Hill, and its message of the birth of Christ will be heard beginning Thursday night.
Mark Brooky
Nov 30, 2011

The eight-minute program of Christmas music, visual displays and narration will be presented continuously from 7-9 each evening through Dec. 24, with a two-minute break between programs. The narrator is Ron Hartsema, who was “the voice of the Musical Fountain” from its inauguration in 1962 until 2006.

The Giant Nativity Scene includes 32-foot-high camels, 8-foot-high shepherds and 22-foot-high angels focused on the Nativity. The Star of Bethlehem, located high on the sand dune, shines down on all of it.

Each November for nearly 30 years, members of the Grand Haven Rotary Club and other recruits dust off the figures and set them up on Dewey Hill, facing Waterfront Stadium across the river. Its nightly operation is automated.

“Much of the labor comes from scouts, youth sports teams from the high school and individual citizens who just show up every year,” said Grand Haven City Manager Pat McGinnis, also a member of the local Rotary.

Tom Creswell, a former Rotarian, heads up the volunteers that oversee the Christmas scene. He took over the job from retired Grand Haven dentist Dr. William Creason, who was one of the scene’s founders and also the man behind building the Musical Fountain.

Creswell said the angels are folded down on the hill and covered with straw the rest of the year. The other parts of the display are stored in a building behind the Musical Fountain.

“Everything is basically stored right there on the hill,” Creswell said. “The Grand Haven High School junior varsity boys basketball team, led by coach Bob Eidson, helps take the display down after Christmas.”

McGinnis said he’s working out the details of a new radio signal for the scene, which otherwise uses the Musical Fountain’s amplified speakers for its sound. Creswell said the new transmitter may not be in place until at least next week.

To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

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