Away in a Oswego

12/22/2012 7:00 AM
By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant New York Correspondent

OSWEGO, N.Y. Many agri-tourism farms host live Nativity scenes or lend animals to church pageants. But at Greco Family Farm & Orchard in Oswego, they bring the congregation and guests of Minetto United Methodist Church (MUMC) to the farm to host a pageant.

Marc Greco purchased the property five years ago and continued the tradition that has been going on for about 25 years, even though his family does not belong to MUMC.

“We love Christmas,” Greco said. “That was one of many things my wife loved about the farm. It’s great having people come out.”

Greco, a retired police captain, and his wife, Kathleen, moved from New York City to Oswego to purchase the property and fulfill her dream of owning a horse business. Greco raises apples and pears “to give me something to do while she takes care of the horses.”

The couple’s three children are grown except for one that still lives at home. Neither Greco nor his wife has a farming background, so they have relied upon the help of former farm owner Dick Wadsworth who built a house nearby. He has helped them learn about raising the cows, goats, chickens and rooster they keep, and how to care for the other animals they borrow from a petting zoo for the many visitors they welcome during the fall season.

The Grecos also offer hayrides, haunted house, and corn maze some years. But once the fall season wraps up, it’s time to start planning for the pageant.

“We want to continue a tradition that was already here, and we want people to come out and have a traditional Christmas Eve atmosphere in a barn,” Greco said. “The church does a really good job in conducting it. “

The tradition pre-dates Pastor Chuck Forbes’ installment at the church three years ago. He said that he wants to continue the event to help attract newcomers to the congregation.

Wadsworth, still a member of MUMC, could not recall who suggested the barn service, but said that a member asked him decades ago if he would be willing to host it. The event went so well that it soon became a favorite annual tradition.

“We had a man who was bringing a camel and donkey once,” he recalled. “My son was leading the donkey with Mary on its back and the donkey didn’t want to go to the front. Someone baited him with apples. The camel wanted the apples and the donkey didn’t want to give them up, so he sat on them to hide them.”

Occasional minor mishaps aside, hosting a pageant at the barn makes lots of sense to Forbes.

“We want to have a live Nativity and when having it outside of the church, you get a number of people from the community who don’t have to dress up,” Forbes said. “They can come as they are and see the story of Jesus in a barn setting.”

The re-enactment of the Christmas story takes place on a hay wagon for a stage with a backdrop to represent Bethlehem. Guests sit on hay bales arranged for seating with the Greco’s animals’ stalls surrounding the audience. The pageant doesn’t include speaking parts, but Forbes reads the account from the Gospels aloud while costumed actors from the church pantomime the narrative, sprinkled with Christmas carols throughout. Some years, the congregation can provide a live baby to play the Christ Child.

“We have a number of young couples starting families, so we have plenty of babies to choose from,” Forbes said. “For the past three years it was a girl, but this year, we’re fortunate to have a boy.”

Last year, more than 200 attended.

Forbes said he enjoys being “ to share the story of the greatest Gift ever given in this type of setting. It is so special.”

The event is slated for Monday, Dec. 24, at 5 p.m. at 297 West Fifth Street Rd. Attendees should dress warmly and bring a flashlight. There is no admission charged.

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