by Sarah Einselen
TWELVE MILE —
For more than four decades, residents of Twelve Mile have donned middle-eastern costumes each December for the town’s annual Christmas pageant. And Dale and Marian Skinner have had some part in the pageant for just as long.
The town’s 42nd annual Christmas pageant will take place Saturday and Sunday in its traditional location, Plank Hill Park on Ind. 16. The Skinners, lifelong residents of Twelve Mile, said they’re staying in the background this year, where Marian will bake cookies and help pageant participants change into costumes as needed.
They can’t be as involved this year because of their age and health — Dale is 80, Marian, 77 — but in the past they’ve taken part in just about every one of the pageant scenes.
They’re just two of about 300 volunteers that band together each year to put on the pageant, whether by baking sweets for the occasion, helping set up or being in one of the scenes.
“It is the beginning of my Christmas,” said Gail Byrum, pageant volunteer coordinator. “It all starts with the pageant and it just gets better from there.”
Several traditional Christmas themes come together in the drive-through pageant. Opening scenes show carolers, angels, elves in Santa’s workshop and an old-fashioned family Christmas gathering. Later on, a series of scenes depict the Christmas story narrated on storyboards, complete with a live donkey, sheep and other animals.
“The only thing that’s not real are the camels,” said organizer Kathy Buczkowski. Byrum noted that there will be a new animal at the manger scene this year, too.
Dale said he and Marian first got involved 41 years ago after his father, Everett Skinner, and two other community leaders started the pageant. Their sons grew up participating in the pageant, he added.
“One of our boys was talking the other day that his grandson wants to be in it this year,” said Dale.
“We’ve been every character at one time or another,” he continued, most recently playing the part of Santa and Mrs. Claus.
“We enjoy participating in the pageant,” chimed in Marian, “and like he said, at one time or another we were in everything.
“We’ve gotten too old to be the Mary and Joseph at the manger. I guess that’s when they moved us up to Santa Claus,” she added, laughing.
Their children started as shepherds. Many younger children begin as toddlers in the elves’ workshop, said Byrum.
Still others start out as little angels.
“I’ve been doing it since I was little,” said Noreen Brumett, who at 37 now has children in the pageant. “I was one of the little angels when I was, oh gosh, I started, probably in first grade.”
The Brumett children, now 10 and 9 years old, started out as little elves in Santa’s workshop. Wyatt, the oldest, will be a shepherd this year, and Bryn will follow in her mother’s footsteps as an angel.
“It’s a neat tradition and it makes the holidays get off to a good start, and remember what we’re celebrating and why it’s important to spend time together as a family,” said Brumett.
She and her husband Dave will be Santa and Mrs. Claus this year.
“We’ve never done that before so this’ll be something new,” Brumett said. “It’ll be fun. The kids will enjoy seeing us dressed up like that, I think.”
Of course, she added, there will be “no fooling them” about their parents’ real identity.
Other volunteers completed initial setup for the pageant on Saturday. A few more finishing touches will be added this weekend before the pageant opens.
Organizers expect 150 to 200 cars driving through each night.
“Ten years ago we actually asked ourselves, should we continue?” recalled Byrum. “And the comment was actually made, well Jesus lives on, so we shall continue. And that’s what we’ve done.”
The pageant will run from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission is by donation, which will go to the Salvation Army. More information is available on the Twelve Mile Christmas Pageant Facebook page.
Sarah Einselen is news editor for the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at email@example.com or 574-732-5151.