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Bethlehem display marks 10th year

12/19/2013 - South Side Leader
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By Maria Lindsay

A display of Bethlehem in the days of the birth of Jesus Christ is celebrating its 10th year in the windows of the Mayflower Manor Apartments building located at the corner of South Main and State streets.
Photos courtesy of Brenda Fargo
DOWNTOWN AKRON — A display of Bethlehem in the days of the birth of Jesus Christ is celebrating its 10th year and maybe its last time in the windows of the Mayflower Manor Apartments building located at the corner of South Main and State streets.

The Village of Bethlehem, created by Brenda and Mike Fargo, of Green, with help from their 12-year-old son, Justin, includes more than 300 pieces of Fontanini art across 240 square feet in four windows. The displays are lit up at night.

Brenda Fargo said it takes three trips in a packed minivan to bring all of the items to the site, and it takes 150 hours to complete the displays.

“I have it down to a science on how to put it all together,” said Fargo. “It is a lot of work, but it is so gratifying to see families looking for items in the display. I enjoy watching people enjoy it together.”

Fargo said she started her collection in 1999 and has researched the times to create an accurate portrayal of life during Jesus’ time for the displays.

The holiday displays include intricate details such as pottery, plants and people involved in various activities, a Nativity scene, a temple, a king’s tent, a fox looking longingly at chickens and a snake charmer and basket with a cobra coming out of it.

Fargo said one of her favorite pieces is a pregnant woman with a gray cat that she gave to her husband to announce her pregnancy. Over the years, she added a man standing by the woman’s house with his hands stretching out to her. New this year are German-made fireplaces that flicker, sent to her by a friend from the Netherlands.

Fargo said she uses all of the pieces to “create little stories” within the larger scene of the village.

Each of the four windows also offers a list of things for children to find.

“Children have a great time trying to locate various animals, specific characters or count camel humps,” she said. “They can look for the little drummer boy, several varieties of flowers and even a cat chasing a squirrel.”

Fargo has entered design contests for the displays and has won honorable mentions several times. In 2011, she won first place and $500 in free Fontanini pieces, and in 2012, she won second place and $400 in Fontanini pieces.

The displays will be available for viewing until Jan. 11.

Fargo said the display’s future at the building is uncertain. According to past reports, Akron City Council applied for $14.6 million in Housing and Urban Development Section 108 loan funding to purchase the building that opened as a hotel in 1931, relocate its residents and begin its renovation. Mayflower Manor has housed more than 200 low-income and disabled or elderly residents since 1981. The city expects to sell the building to a developer to complete the renovation and restore the property to a mixed-use development of office, retail and/or housing. The city’s plans are contingent upon receiving the loan.

“It will probably take up to 24 months for this to happen, so we are likely to stay there next year, but after that, we don’t know,” said Fargo. “This place has been perfect for the height, depth and location for this display.”

If she is forced to move, Fargo said she would like to stay in Downtown Akron near Lock 3 Park.

“After the tree lighting ceremony and Welcome Santa Parade, people like to come over to see this display,” said Fargo. “It has become a part of the holidays downtown in Akron.”

The Village of Bethlehem now is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/J2Bnativity.

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