Evangel Baptist Church brings Bethlehem to Lakewood Ranch | east county

Linda Baker, from East County, was busy making sure the costumes she had sewn for Evangel Baptist Church’s Bethlehem Drive-Thru were ready.

Baker, who lives in the Il Villaggio neighborhood, and other volunteers spent hours in the church checking the measurements to make sure the costumes fit the people playing the characters. Then came the ironing.

Meanwhile, outside the church, Linda Baker’s husband, Jerry Baker, joined a dozen volunteers to assemble pieces to convert the church’s entrance to Bethlehem for the Dec. 2-3 event.

The Bethlehem Drive-Thru depicts the moment of Jesus’ birth. Guests will travel through Bethlehem to visit the different shops, meeting a baker, a basket maker, a carpenter, and a tax collector, among others.

All the sets and most of the costumes were made by members of the church.

When Baker started making costumes four years ago, he researched what people in Bethlehem wore. He found that those residents wore robes, shawls or capes with more earthy tones like tan, dark red, gray and more. Many of them also have head coverings.

She used patterns she found online to make the robes.

She found sheets and fabric from Goodwill and other thrift stores to make costumes. She made a small, medium, and large costume so that there is one that will fit anyone playing that character, especially the children involved.

“It’s fun to look at the fabric and think in your mind, ‘Okay, this will be good for a pastor, this might work for a different character,'” Baker said.

He said that Bethlehem was a poor town, so he did not worry about finding jewelry, gold, or flashy pieces for costumes. He also didn’t have to make costumes for kings and queens, which, he said, would have been more complicated because they would have to be more extravagant.

There are some costumes, like the ones worn by soldiers, that were bought online.

The first year she made costumes, Baker said it took her days to create a costume. Although he knew how to sew, he had never made tunics before.

“When I started this, I was very nervous because I didn’t know what I was doing,” she said.

Now, over 100 costumes later, if you need to make one costume, you can create two or three in one day.

Her favorite costume she’s ever made is for the person who plays Mary.

Richard Woughter of Bradenton, Len Kirkpatrick of Del Tierra, Jim Marshall of Bradenton and Bill Egerdahl of Bradenton add the roof to the mercantile store. (Photo by Liz Ramos)

“It’s always sweet to see her come together,” he said. “Blue and white always represent Maria.”

She said that seeing their costumes on the amateur actors as they roam Bethlehem or work in the shops is wonderful.

“It looks really beautiful after putting them together,” Baker said. “Once it all comes together and everyone is dressed and in their positions, everything looks good.”

Jerry Baker is in charge of assembling all the stores, the gates of the town and the manger.

“We want to give people an idea of ​​what Bethlehem was like,” he said. “We want the atmosphere of what was going on when Jesus was born in the stable.”

New this year is a set showing the childhood home of Jesus.

Jerry Baker said his daughter-in-law’s mother, Joanne Hall, will work at the children’s home. Jerry Baker has already built the house, but Hall will paint and design it.

“She brings it to life,” said Jerry Baker. “She will paint and design the doors, windows and everything in there. I’m excited to see how she can bring the three dimensions out of this. I see it in my head. The hard part is getting other people to see it.”

In other shops like the bakery and carpentry, the walls are painted to look like rocks.

The bakery will have a portable convection oven that will be concealed and made to look like a fireplace. There are baskets of bread, eggs and other bakery items.

The manger is made of wood, with hay scattered throughout. There are wooden cutouts of animals.

To create the different tents, the members of the church build a frame and make the roof out of cloth. They hang lights so you can see everything at night.

Jerry Baker said most visitors love the wood shop where kids can do hands-on activities.

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