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‘Follow the Star’ Pageant in Gladstone, Ore., Worth Attending

This square dancer has lived in Portland, Ore., more than 20 years but had never heard of “Follow the Star” until this Christmas season. I attended tonight and highly recommend this free family event in Gladstone, Ore., to all square dancers and non-square dancers alike.

Unlike drive-through nativity scenes, this 45-minute pilgrimage to Jesus’ manger winds along outdoor torch-lit pathways filled with surly Roman soldiers, musical surprises and high-quality pageantry. The genius of the event is that it is interactive. Participants not only view the Christmas story, as told in the Bible, but also take part in the unfolding of the events. And you learn a bit about the history of the era–think “The Nativity Story” movie from a few years ago. 

I don’t want to give away the surprises–throughout the evening the emcee urged returning guests to avoid telling newcomers about the upcoming scenes. But if you go, be prepared for a memorable experience, not a cheesy bathrobe Sunday school play or Hollywood glitz. Participants begin building the elaborate sets in August. Actors memorize extensive dialogue. Their hard work is evident. 

Three more showings remain: Dec. 9, 10, 11. Saturday is usually packed, so try the Friday or Sunday showings. Gates open on Friday at 5:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday gates open at 4:30 p.m. Arrive early, stand in line for a free ticket (no reserved seating is available), and then relax in the auditorium where local musicians entertain with Christmas music. Tonight’s performers included an ensemble (singer, pianist, bass player and glockenspiel player), a pianist, and a vocalist. (Hint: Some people go home or out to eat rather than waiting in the auditorium.) Audience carol-singing and announcements fall between performers…about every half hour.

When your group’s number is projected on the big screen, you gather at the side of the auditorium, don your hats and gloves, and follow a guide to the first stop. Six more follow. Free refreshments come at the end. Dress warmly. I was happy to have thick socks and boots, gloves and a hooded coat.

Address: 19800 Oatfield Rd., Gladstone, Oregon. Take the Gladstone/DMV exit off Interstate 205. Turn right onto 82nd Ave; turn right onto Oatfield Road. (The Gladstone Park Conference Center is on the west side of the freeway. The entrance is well-marked.)

The Seventh-day Adventists sponsor the event. I’m not an Adventist, but hats off to the Adventist Church for reminding us of what Christmas is all about…and for doing it with style.

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