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Walk Through Bethlehem to start Friday in Hector

By Tammy Keith

This article was published December 5, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.

rob-and-hannah-pruitt-portraying-joseph-and-mary-look-at-baby-jesus-silas-muncy-in-the-2008-walk-through-bethlehem-in-hector-this-years-free-outdoor-production-will-start-at-630-pm-friday-at-hector-first-assembly-of-god-11421-arkansas-27

Rob and Hannah Pruitt, portraying Joseph and Mary, look at baby Jesus, Silas Muncy, in the 2008 Walk Through Bethlehem in Hector. This year’s free outdoor production will start at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Hector First Assembly of God, 11421 Arkansas 27.

HECTOR — The little town of Hector will play host to the little town of Bethlehem beginning Friday.

A cast of more than 100 from Hector First Assembly of God will perform the outdoor production Walk Through Bethlehem from 6:30-8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, as well as Dec. 13-15. It is free, and reservations are needed only for the Dec. 15 production.

“It’s a guided tour, so it’s like a drama or presentation,” said Jason Muncy of Hector, who came up with the concept in 2008.

The original idea was to put in a drive-thru event about the birth of Christ, he said, but the church has one main road leading to it, so shutting it down wasn’t a good option.

“Then we we decided we’d build a little city,” he said.

The little city is 13,000 square feet.

“This year, our city is actually a little bigger than the last year,” Muncy said.

“We have all the usual suspects,” he said, including a donkey, sheep, goats, a camel and a cow.

“We have a real baby this year,” Muncy said. Jeb Taylor, who is just a few months old, will get the honor of playing baby Jesus.

“The reason I can remember the first year, 2008, is that our baby was baby Jesus the first time,” he said of his son, Silas.

Muncy will be in costume for the tour, but he greets guests as they arrive and doesn’t take part in the performance.

He said it takes about 25 minutes to go through the outdoor production.

In 2011, about 3,300 people came through, Muncy said.

He said this is the fourth year for Walk Through Bethlehem, which was held in 2008, 2009 and 2011.

The production will be held every other year because it’s such a time-consuming production, Muncy said.

A few cosmetic changes were made to the city this year, and the script was tweaked slightly to keep the event fresh, Muncy said.

People may wait in the sanctuary and watch entertainment on a big screen while waiting for their tour to begin.

Terry Rudder of Hector helps build the city each year and is a character in the production.

“I’m the tax collector. I greet everybody at the gate. I’m the evil one of the bunch,” Rudder said.

“I like to see the people’s faces. I remember one thing in particular: Myself and the guard are kind of mean toward the crowd, and this little boy, about 6 or 7, he kept looking back and forth at me and the guard, and when we said they could go in, he said, ‘Boy, Dad, that was close.’”

Rudder said it’s a unique experience.

“You can tell everybody’s excited to see it, and some go through more than once.

“With the donkeys braying — and we’ve got sheep and camels, and the fire, you can smell it — it’s like the real thing,” he said.

“I’m glad we do it. It’s a lot of work — we start on it like in September, and the last Saturday we’re still finishing it,” Rudder said.

“It’s something everybody ought to see.”

At the end of the tour, “around a big, old fire,” Muncy said, the pastor thanks people for attending, and cookies and hot chocolate are available.

Muncy emphasized that it is an outdoor production and that people need to dress appropriately.

“This weekend, it’s going to be really cold,” he said.

Regardless of the weather, he said, the show will go on.

He also said visitors don’t have to worry about being hit up for donations — it’s not mentioned.

“It’s a totally free thing we’re doing for the community,” Muncy said. “As we’ve seen over the years, it’s become a tradition for some people who like coming here and seeing the real meaning of Christmas.”

For more information or to reserve a tour for Dec. 15, call the church at (479) 284-3026.

The church is at 11421 Arkansas 27 in Hector, and its website is www.hectorfirst.org.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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