RICKREALL — For three quarters of a century — since before World War II —this small community in the mid-Willamette Valley has devoted three consecutive evenings each December to a portrayal of the birth of Christ.
But what had long ago developed into a tradition has now concluded.
The board governing the annual Rickreall Christmas Pageant in September made the firm and final decision to end the pageant, which had its 75th annual run last year. The board early this summer had initially discussed whether to halt the event.
With the exception of the World War II years (1942-44), the volunteers of the pageant have presented the Nativity story annually since 1938 at the Rickreall Event Hall, a former school.
The main reason for bringing things to a close was an inability to find a new director for the pageant, said Mary McCarron, who had directed the show for the past 10 years and been involved in it for many more years.
Also a factor was increasing costs for putting on the pageant. Sponsored by a nonprofit, the free-admission show survived on donations only.
Furthermore, several of the show’s other key people also have retired, including the choir director, choir representative and stage manager.
“It was definitely a painful decision, but reality was setting in,” McCarron said.
McCarron said 150 to 200 people from throughout the mid-Valley were involved each year in putting on the pageant.
“It was a very labor-intensive activity,” she said.
She said from 200 to 250 people attended the pageant last December over its final three-night run.
McCarron said the Polk County Museum in Independence has expressed interest in preserving some memories of the event by possibly accepting some of the show’s props and photos into its collection.
For more information, see the pageant’s Facebook page.