Part of last weekend’s Christmas in the Gorge event in Stevenson was the 19th annual Nativities in the Gorge community nativity display, held at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on N.W. Gropper Road.

The long running event displays as many as 650 creches on loan by members of the congregation, as well as other local communities in the Gorge as far away as Goldendale, said Coral Zimmerman, Nativities in the Gorge Committee. “Some are private collectors; some of the nativities have been donated to the event to be kept by the church and displayed every year,” she said.

The nativities come from all over the world — Germany, Peru, Israel, Italy, Guatemala, and Nigeria, to name a few.

“One of our international nativities is an antique from the Cora indigenous tribe of Mexico,” Zimmerman said. “It is over 100 years old and was handed from parents to children for generations until it was given to a member of our congregation for safe keeping. Another representation of the Nativity is made using an age-old technique from the Mexican state of Nayarit. Beads are pressed into wax to form the beautiful and intricate figures.

“There is an African creche carved from ebony, one of the hardest woods in the world,” she continued. “One nativity ornament we display was made from an eggshell. We have had a nativity made entirely of gingerbread, a product of one of our members and her daughter. Several of the displays are handmade, such as one crocheted by a talented local craftsperson.”

There is even a life-sized stable with manger and animals, where children can dress up, as well as other children’s activities, such as a scavenger hunt.

The church has held the event each of its 19 years as a Christmas gift to the community. The exhibit was started by former Stevenson resident Frances Udall.

“She taught the women of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to sew all the table skirts from fabric sold to them at a discounted wholesale price … The women collected materials for the displays, exhibited their own nativities and solicited others, launching the first event in 2002,” Zimmerman said.

Since then, the exhibit has expanded to include the greater Gorge, and attendance is a tradition for many families, she said. “It takes several months of planning and four to five days of intense work to complete, beginning with the entire congregation helping to set up the tables and Christmas trees,” she said.

All labor is volunteer; Linda Borup of Home Valley, Wash., is current committee head.

The event is free of charge — and will continue to be so, said Zimmerman.

“Many families fit it into their Christmas plans every year,” she said.