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Published December 21, 2007, 12:00 AM

Nativity story comes to life on Reynolds, N.D., farm

REYNOLDS, N.D. - A star in the West will guide the faithful to the live Nativity in Dwight and Sara Ollman's barn.

By: By Ann Bailey, Special Features Staff Writer

REYNOLDS, N.D. - A star in the West will guide the faithful to the live Nativity in Dwight and Sara Ollman's barn.

The couple will hold the annual live Nativity featuring Biblical characters and a menagerie of livestock, including sheep, horses, cows and a donkey on Dec. 22 and Dec. 23. Besides several performances of the Christmas story, the live Nativity at the Ollmans also includes a bonfire and sleigh rides.

A huge lighted star on the outside of the Ollman's barn and riding arena signals to visitors that they are at the Ollman arena. Dwight Ollman hand-crafted the points of the star from Re-bar and used a wagon wheel as the center point.

The star, though on the west side of the Ollman barn, is symbolic of the star in the East that guided the Three Wisemen to the Christ child, Ollman said. It also serves as a good marker for the live Nativity, he noted.


This is the 20th year that the Nativity, sponsored by Holmes United Methodist Church west of Reynolds, has been held in the Ollman's riding arena.

“I remember we put the first one on, it was 20 below and there were people like you wouldn't believe,” said Paul Lenz, Ollman's neighbor and a fellow parishioner of Holmes United Methodist Church.

Each year the Nativity includes readings about the coming of the Savior from the prophet Isiah and a re-enactment of the Christmas story.

“Mary is mounted on a donkey and Joseph is alongside,” Dwight Ollman said. Given the sometimes cranky, usually stubborn nature of donkeys the Ollmans don't have a lot of people vying to play the role of Mary.

“Anybody that is brave enough to ride the donkey, we put on,” Ollman said. “One year the donkey bucked Mary off,” he said with a chuckle.

Although the Ollmans have been able to use a “real” donkey courtesy of a neighbor, two of their horses and one of Lenz' act as stand-ins for the Wisemen's camels. In this version of the Christmas story a Wiseman leads a pack “camel” carrying the gold, frankincense and myrrh and one of the Wisemen is Wisewoman Sara Ollman.

CharactersAs Nativity hosts, she and Dwight need to be flexible about their roles.

“We do whatever is needed,” Ollman said. “I was an angel one year.”

Though the roles the Nativity characters play can change from year to year, one thing is pretty certain; the characters have to dress warm. Temperatures have dipped as low as minus 30 with a frigid winter wind making the weather feel like it was 75 below.

The Nativity characters prepare for the cold by wearing costumes resembling the Biblical characters over the top of layers of street clothing, insulated coveralls, hooded sweatshirts and snow boots.

“I usually have to have help getting on because I can't get my leg up (in the stirrup) with all those clothes,” Sara Ollman said.

PopularThe cold weather might make for some roly-poly Biblical characters but nobody seems to mind. Over the years the attendance at the live Nativity has swelled to about 500.

Dwight Ollman believes that the Nativity draws people because it is Christmas at its simplest and is the antithesis of the commercialism that seems to pervade December. That's why Holmes United Methodist Church continues to sponsor the event and he and Sara remain the hosts.

“Someone has to do something to keep the true meaning out there,” he said.

Live Nativity performances begin at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 22 and Dec. 23. and 7 p.m. each night. The Ollman arena is one mile west of the Holmes Church on Co. Road 13.

Directions: From Reynolds: nine miles west on Co. 25 and 2 ¼ miles north on Co. 13. From Thompson: 11 miles west on Highway 15 and three miles south on Co. Road 13. From Northwood: 12 miles east on Highway 15 and three south on Co. Road 13. Look for signs.