The Rangeley Friends of the Arts (RFA) 41st Annual Walk to Bethlehem and Community Christmas Pageant was held on the evening of December 12th. Starting at the Rangeley Inn and winding through downtown, stopping to symbolically be turned away by The Rangeley Free Baptist Church, St. Luke’s Catholic Church, and the Rangeley Congregational Church, Anne Crump led the singing by the group of Christmas carolers, while Taylor Archard, Karl and Otis Kolze, dressed as Mary, Joseph and Babe, led the procession.

Welcomed into the warmth of the Church of the Good Shepherd, Millie Hoekstra, RFA Walk to Bethlehem Committee member, thanked those that took the brisk, and slightly longer than usual walk. She mentioned the slight alterations in the usual program due to the pandemic, but was thankful for the attendees, albeit fewer than usual, (and masked) and proceeded to provide a little history.

41st Annual Walk to Bethlehem ending at the Church of the Good Shepherd

“We appreciate everybody coming out tonight and celebrating the season. The RFA has for 41 years put this on and as a community this is one event that we share together, and it kicks off the holiday season. 41 years ago, there was a live pony that actually was in the procession. Over the years we’ve had 41 babies, 41 parents, shepherds by the billions (jokingly), and many other people that have performed. So as a community I think we can celebrate this as we go forward.”

RFA Walk to Bethlehem Committee member Millie Hoekstra

She mentioned she was surprised to see Linda Sikes in the audience and then proceeded to take the opportunity to recognize the fact that Sikes had been one of the earliest organizers of this longstanding tradition. The crowd applauded.

Rangeley Women’s Ensemble- Jeanie Brown, Amanda Christian, Pam Ellis, Averie Flewelling, Debby Higgins, Erin Smith, Ana Wetherill, Aurora Wetherill, Brittany Wetherill. Directed and Accompanied by Sue Downes-Borko.

I honestly didn’t know how many people to expect due to the pandemic, but after a moment I forgot about the pandemic altogether.

Instead, I looked passed the masks and gratefully saw folks I haven’t seen in quite a while. Two of those people were Victor Borko and Sue Downes-Borko. Oh how I missed seeing them at events such as these. I’m so glad these two talented musicians and wonderful members of our community are back from their stay in Alaska.

Carol leaders- Brittany Wetherill, Aurora Wetherill and Dagmar Benites.

Speaking of talented folks who I personally haven’t seen in a while, this year the carol leaders were Dagmar Benites, Brittany Wetherill and Aurora Wetherill. The three charming sisters led the crowd to sing classics such as Hark the Herald Angels Sing, O Come All Ye Faithful, and We Three Kings.

Rangeley Ringers- Jennifer Atwood, Marie Beauregard, Zenna Inness, Leona Kennett, Mary Richards, Erin Smith, Ana Wetherill, Aurora Wetherill, Ben Wetherill, Brittany Wetherill and Judy Wicken. Directed by Sue Downe’s Borko.

The Rangeley Ringers, always a crowd pleaser, performed two beautiful songs, followed by the strong voice of Daxxtyn Williams who sang Believe.

Daxxtyn Williams sings “Believe”.

Kayla Brewer sings “The Christmas Song”.

Both Kayla Brewer and Michelle Cerminara also sang touchingly beautiful solos. I mean just lovely. Hearing the children singing is such an absolute joy.

Michelle Cerminara sings “Where Are You Christmas”.

Afterwards, the mood was lighthearted and fun as Lakeside Dance Academy seniors Emmarae MacFawn and Ella Shaffer performed a dance duet to the tune of Winter Wonderland.

Ella Shaffer and Emmarae MacFawn dance to “Winter Wonderland”.

This year, Ethan Shaffer skillfully read the Christmas Pageant as cute little angels and shepherds, the Three Kings, and rest of the reenactment cast went on stage. This year’s Babe wasn’t as quiet as in year’s past, but Taylor smiled and giggled as adoringly as Mary would to her sweet little son. It was adorable.

Acolytes- Averie Flewelling and Lyla Crump.

A truly beautiful night, but for me a bit bittersweet. I have begun to think there is some complacency around these events, as though they will be here forever. As though they are always the same, but truly they are not. Sure, there was the quintessential singing of Silent Night, but the program always has something or someone new, and the different song selections have an entirely different overall feel each year. One year it was more folk music, another it was more traditional, but each year I am so very happy that I came.

Christmas Pageant- Mary, Joseph and the Babe- Taylor Archard, Karl, and Otis Kolze, Three Wise Men- Russell French, Fletcher Dellavalle, Ben Bassett, Reader- Ethan Shaffer, Shepherds- Oliver England, Everett England, Max Farrar, Angels- Pippa Farrar, Piper Kolze, Acolytes- Averie Flewelling, Lyla Crump, Accompanies- Sue Downes-Borko, Guitarist- Victor Borko. Picasa

I know people were staying away for safety and fully respect that, but I couldn’t help but get nostalgic about year’s past when the event was standing room only. I hope next year brings even more peace of mind and joy at the 42nd Annual Walk to Bethlehem and Community Christmas Pageant. If you have never been, it is a one-of-a-kind celebration, with participants from all ages and each and every year on the top of my list of RFA productions not to be missed. Truly my favorite Rangeley event.

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