Donations are sought to purchase this Nativity for the town’s holiday display. Organizers say that it will likely become a 2020 project.
The absence of a Nativity scene on the courthouse did not go un-noticed by many during the downtown Christmas parade and tree lighting.
Social media posts began appearing seeking answers on the whereabouts of the town’s Nativity and why it wasn’t up.
In a convoluted mix of informal agreements: the county government provides the tree (which is erected, will be removed and stored by a private contractor); the sleigh where Santa poses for pictures is stored in the county public works area but is set up by the Jasper Merchants Association, who also takes
the lead in organizing the annual Night of Lights Christmas celebration and other decorations. The city of Jasper provides the Christmas banners on the light poles downtown and the lights on the wooden bridge and at the water sculpture park.
Paul Poore, a former leader of the merchants group, explained in a Facebook post that in either 2011 or 2012, the merchants took over decorating duties for the parade, except for the Nativity and tree which the county handled. But he said there were legal issues with the county having the Nativity so they circumvented problems by using the merchants in later years.
However, Commission Chair Rob Jones, who has held the top spot in the county for more than decade, said he didn’t recall any legal issues, nor has he had any complaints about having a Nativity here. He said the merchants asked to take over and they were going to re-paint the Nativity figures, which were getting in pretty poor shape, so he let them take them.
Jones said as far as he is aware there are no restrictions on the county having a Nativity on their courthouse lawn and he is fully supportive of the merchants having it there.
Based on all accounts, the Nativity isn’t there this year simply because there wasn’t a Nativity set suitable for use.
Poore continued in his post, “As many of you know, over time the Nativity scene started to look terrible because of the age of the pieces. The set was from at least the early 1970s and they were damaged, broken, and even some were missing because they had been stolen as a prank by local kids. In 2014 - 2015 a call for help was put out asking for a replacement Nativity scene. That call was answered by Kelli Blohm and the T.A.P.S. USA veterans group. Kelli offered her own personal Nativity scene on loan to the community and the T.A.P.S. USA group took over the installation and care for the Nativity scene for the next several years, which included them building a new manger for everything to sit under. Earlier this year, the T.A.P.S. USA group disbanded and is no more which now leaves the community without a Nativity scene to set up or the people to volunteer to set it up.”
Seeing the problem, a local businesswoman (who does want to be named as this is a community effort, not something she wants to be recognized for individually) stepped in and found a Nativity for sale and set up an account at Community Bank, which may also be donated to online (look for Jasper, GA Nativity on Facebook).
A description of the Nativity at a cost of $4,995 plus tax, stated, “12 piece 48" full round, traditionally colored fiberglass figures with removable Jesus. Breathtakingly beautiful detail makes this traditional, fiberglass Nativity an elegant edition to your church or home decor. … Added durability with fiberglass construction. Beautiful for indoor or outdoor use. Nativity set includes: Mary, Joseph, removable Jesus with crib, three wisemen, shepherd, angel, donkey, cow and sheep.”
If the funding for the purchase comes before Christmas passes this year, the new Nativity will be ordered and put into place, but that was not considered likely, so organizers are really shooting for the 2020 Christmas season.
In the meantime, Community Bank of Pickens County has loaned a Nativity, which was put up Monday for the rest of this holiday season.