HANNIBAL, Mo. -- More than 7,000 people from across the Tri-State region will walk the path Mary and Joseph took as they traveled to Bethlehem to prepare for Jesus' birth during the Crossing's annual Journey to Bethlehem in Hannibal.
The free event will be Dec. 1, 2, 8 and 9. Doors will open at 4 p.m. at the Crossing's Hannibal location, 425 Broadway. An indoor production before Journey to Bethlehem starts at 5 p.m. at the Crossing's Orpheum Theater. Trolleys will take people from the theater to Bear Creek Trail for the immersive experience.
"Our turnout is based on weather, and good weather equals more people," campus Pastor Randy Drish said. "We've been spending weeknights and weekends since October preparing for this event. There's a lot that goes into it."
During Journey to Bethlehem, participants become part of the Christmas story as they walk the one-third-mile trail. Actors portray Roman soldiers, villagers, shepherds and other characters, and live animals are used.
"The Roman soldiers will harass you," Drish said. "It's completely interactive and a very real and fun thing to participate in."
There are several new things in Journey to Bethlehem this year.
Because of concerns about trees, everything for the 2017 event is a standalone structure. The indoor production that people view while waiting to be taken to Bear Creek Trail has been revamped. A photo booth with costumes of Roman soldiers and villagers is set up at the end of the trail. And a guestbook that people can sign will be available.
"We have heard from people living in southern Missouri, Kansas City, Iowa and other places wanting to know more information about this event before they attend," Drish said. "We think it will be interesting to see who has come the farthest to participate."
The rest of Journey to Bethlehem will be unchanged.
"We couldn't possibly improve upon the Christmas story," Drish said.
The event was hosted by the Crossing in Quincy until 2007. This year marks the fourth year the Crossing in Hannibal has put it on. For more information, visit facebook.com/JTBTheCrossing.