GREAT FALLS – About 35 years ago when Carol Olthoff lived in Alaska she started a collection of nativities. She mostly just displayed them to family and friends at the time. She had about 30 to 40 in her collection.
The first year she displayed her nativities publicly, she had around 140. It was for a fundraiser and the display was set up at her house at the time.
The next year her husband got sick and had to have surgery in December.
10 years go by until she really had a feeling she needed to either do something with the nativity scenes or dispense of them.
She came to the Columbus Center where they allowed her to set up her nativity scenes.
Now, her collection has grown to near 1000 nativity scenes.
In previous years, her nativity scenes were set up in the hallway on the first floor of the Columbus Center, but this year she has moved to the second floor. Some still reside in the cases on the first floor hallway.
Carol said, “It’s such a pleasure to be here and share them with the community.”
She shares them every year for about four weeks in the Columbus Center. It takes her and a few friends 2-3 weeks to set them up each year.
The display is free to the public.
No nativities are for sale.
Why nativities? “Because that’s what Christmas is about,” says Carol.
She added, ”We’ve just gotten so far away from the real meaning of Christmas and my heart’s desire is for people to get that back.”
She has quite a few countries represented in her display, many of them that were given to her. Some countries include: Korea, Peru, Guatemala, Japan, Germany, Poland, Kenya, Philippines and more.
Carol said, “Young and old, they’re just in awe of the different representations and everyone just blesses me. That’s my goal. Every day I get up and I just pray that it will be a blessing to someone.”
You can see the nativity displays Monday- Saturdays through the first week of January.
Reporting by Kasey Herman for MTN News