Despite a 90 km/h windstorm and torrential downpour, Parksville’s 22nd annual Bethlehem Walk still welcomed more than 900 people on opening night.
In total, Parksville Fellowship Baptist Church administrator TammyLynn Campbell said the event raised $13,353, all of which was donated to the Salvation Army. In addition, the event collected three van loads of non perishable goods for the food bank.
Campbell said 5,620 people attended the event over four days, where the biblical story of Christmas was re-enacted by costumed actors in period-accurate displays of Bethlehem.
While the number of attendees was lower than usual, likely due to the weather, Campbell said the amount of money raised this year is “tremendous” considering the lower turnout.
Pastor Barry Nielsen said about half of the 500-member church helped with making the event possible, from baking cookies to refurbishing the Bethlehem set to controlling parking and dressing up in costume. “It’s a mix of everyone from young families to seniors, regardless of age, coming together,” said Nielsen.
On opening night, he said, gusty winds knocked down their outdoor tents and a long queue of people took shelter inside the church building.
But the show went on for their regular Saturday to Tuesday run.
Nielsen said he’s already thinking about next year’s event, noting planning really gets underway in the summer months.
“I’ve seen a lot of Bethlehem Walks across the country and this one is the best quality event,” said Salvation Army major Norm Hamelin. “People aren’t just in costume, they’re in character. It’s so authentic. You feel like you’re there.”