Christmas lights enliven Kirtland
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KIRTLAND, Ohio Now that the seasons have changed and the torrent of summer tourists has slowed to a trickle, residents are venturing onto the grounds of historic Kirtland and discovering for themselves the beauty and peace of this sacred site. Kirtland was headquarters of the Church from 1831-1838.
"About 96 percent of our visitors during the summer are members of the Church," said Elder T. Bowring Woodbury, director of historic Kirtland. "During the off season, we wanted to reach out to the community and invite them to see the grounds. We did this by creating three activities; a creche exhibit, six performances of the 'Forgotten Carols,' and lighting 80 trees with 50,000 lights."
During the first week in December, an estimated 4,100 people visited historic Kirtland, some coming for repeat visits.
Many in this area of northeast Ohio remembered historic Kirtland as a blighted area a four-way stop lined with dilapidated taverns. But after the Church built new facilities in the past two years, including a visitors center, sawmill, ashery, schoolhouse, John Johnson Inn and restored the Whitney home, many local residents are intrigued by the history and express appreciation for its beauty.
"One resident said she had lived here for 25 years and never knew of the site or its beauty," said Teresa Chapman who spearheaded the creche exhibit.
"Awesome. Just Wonderful. Very impressive," wrote one visitor. "Super wonderful. God bless you for this display," wrote another.
Visitors entering the grounds from the parking lot are treated to a sweeping view of the facilities with lighted trees leading their perspective down the corridor to a lighted Nativity scene made of 6-foot tall statues near the Johnson Inn.
About 300 creches were offered by members from the Cleveland and Kirtland stakes, with 110 displayed in the replica 1800s schoolhouse and the remainder in the visitors center.
Six performances of Michael McLean's "Forgotten Carols" were presented to approximately 200 spectators each performance.
"We want to build a tradition, like other visitors centers, where people come to enjoy the sights and sounds of Christmas," said Elder Woodbury. "People tell us they are impressed that a religion would reach out to others in this way."