Cedar Rapids nativity tradition lives on after flood - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Cedar Rapids nativity tradition lives on after flood

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Every year, for 24 years, Ron King helped set up one of the most recognizable Christmas traditions in Cedar Rapids.

"We were basically the Macy's of Cedar Rapids," King said.

King worked as a display manager at  the old Armstrong's department store, responsible for putting up 11 life-size nativity statues in the store window on the corner of 3rd Avenue and 3rd Street right before Christmas.

"You could tell just by the people standing and looking at the window walking by, what it meant to them," King said.

But in 2008, flood waters nearly wiped out the entire display.

"I didn't want to know how bad it was hurt.  From what I heard, it was basically destroyed," King said.

That's when Laure Schaerr of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Cedar Rapids saw it as an opportunity to help.

"It was obvious that this was a beautiful nativity set and we decided, yeah, we'll take on the project," said Schaerr, the church's coordinator for the nativity celebration.

Schaerr and some 40 volunteers spent more than 200 hours restoring the entire display.  The statue of Joseph sustained the worst amount of damage, split into three pieces.

"Lots of plaster was missing, he really took the brunt of the damage," Schaerr said.

The group of volunteers even spent time matching the same paint color as the old display, but the tedious work paid off. 

King says the display looks as he has always remembered it.

"I am just absolutely amazed at what these people have done with it.  I really am," King said.

Meaning this tradition will continue this holiday season and for many more to come.

The nativity celebration will take part Friday, December 2nd from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday, December 3rd from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The event is free, although guests are encouraged to bring canned food donations.

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