Farm nativity event ready for 10th year

Deryll Amstutz of rural Hillsboro gets a kiss from Dance the llama at last year’s Night in the Barn. Organizers Maynard Knepp and Carol Duerksen will mark the 10th year of the event Dec. 16 and 17 at their farm between Hillsboro and Goessel.

Ten years ago, youth group members and sponsors of the Tabor and Goessel Mennonite churches were preparing for a living nativity event they’d dubbed “Night in the Barn.”

They’d never done anything like it before. They didn’t know if the animals that had been called upon would cooperate, and they didn’t know if anyone would even come to a farm between Goessel and Hillsboro to experience their Christmas experiment.

Two minutes before the event was to begin, they got their first answer: the entire herd of sheep had pushed down a fence and escaped.

“That first year, our shepherds didn’t have any sheep to guard,” chuckled Maynard Knepp, who is co-owner of the farm with wife Carol Duerksen.

And people did come. That year, nearly 500 people made their way into the barn nestled in the hillside, and they’ve been coming each year since.

“It’s a tradition for many people,” Duerksen said. “One guy tells us that his Christmas doesn’t start until he’s been here.”

This year’s Night in the Barn is planned for 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Dec. 16 and 17.

The come-and-go event will feature original music by Doug and Jude Krehbiel, the story of “Donkey,” and singing Christmas carols.

This year’s supporting cast of animals that helps create the atmosphere for Night in the Barn includes donkeys, sheep, llamas, horses, a cow with a small calf, turkeys, peafowl, a potbellied pig and geese.

Add a cup of hot chocolate and a bonfire to stand around and sing carols, and a memorable evening is in store to share with family and friends.

Directions to Night in the Barn: from Goessel, 3 miles north, 4 east, 3/4 north; from Hillsboro, 4 miles south, 3 west, 3/4 north.

Call 620-367-8432 for more information.

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