In the 12 years since Walk Through Bethlehem was introduced at Samoset First Baptist Church, 3200 15th St. E., it has become an annual Manatee County Christmas tradition.
The community is invited to walk through a set reproducing a market place, shops, and more, including the stable where Jesus was born more than 2,000 years ago. In all, there are 18 stops on the walk, requiring about 35 minutes to complete. A guide accompanies each group to narrate the free tours.
Months of planning and work go into Walk Through Bethlehem by a cast and crew of 130, representing the combined efforts of two churches: Samoset First Baptist and Southside Baptist.
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This year the program will be presented two nights only: 4:30-8:30 p.m. Dec. 2 and Dec. 3.
Tammy Bass, who serves as office manager, director of childrens’ activities and youth director at Samoset First Baptist, came up with the vision for Walk Through Bethlehem in 2006.
They’ll see a little taste of Bethlehem and have a greater sense of who God is in their lives. Without God we are all lost.
Bill Finch, cast and crew member
“I woke up in the middle of the night and the layout of the whole thing came to me,” she said.
Each year, Bass starts working on the preliminaries in August, and then volunteers begin putting up the set the first week of November.
“It has evolved from the beginning,” she said.
The set now includes more detailed walls and costumes to help make the experience more realistic, Bass said.
Bill Finch has taken part in Walk Through Bethlehem as a construction volunteer and as a cast member for about seven years.
His role? Fish seller. More important to Finch is the message he helps deliver.
“Oh my goodness. I get to tell about our Lord Jesus Christ, his life, his death and his resurrection. I think that’s important to a lot of people,” Finch said.
“They’ll see a little taste of Bethlehem and have a greater sense of who God is in their lives. Without God we are all lost,” he said.
Thus far, more than 10,000 guests have experienced Walk Through Bethlehem.
Church members say Walk Through Bethlehem is more than a nativity scene. It’s a sensory experience.
Each group of walkers is escorted by a narrator, and while guests wait, they can listen to live music by local ministries and churches.
For more information, call 941-746-8117 or visit walkthroughbethlehemtour.com.
If you go
What: Walk Through Bethlehem
Where: Samoset First Baptist Church, 3200 15th St. E.
When: 4:30-8:30 p.m. Dec. 2-3
Information: 941-746-8117 or visit walkthroughbethlehemtour.com