Christian Heritage has community message

Students ready for tonight's Christmas program

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— Mayor Jack Pietig has canceled his community's Christmas pageant because the program creates traffic problems in Town Square and the manger scene isn't "cool."

It is up to the community's children, played by Christian Heritage School elementary students, to urge the mayor to reinstate the pageant because the birth of Jesus is an important message for the community to hear.

Christel Houston, longtime director of the Christian Herit-

age School Christmas program, also believes it is an important message for Steamboat Springs. Houston is thankful she and her children live in a community where religious messages aren't suppressed at Christmas.

"We are so fortunate we don't live in a town like that," Houston said after Tuesday's two-and-a-half-hour dress rehearsal. "There are places like that. We do this in honor of communities where you can't do what Steamboat allows us to do."

The Christmas program at Christian Heritage School is one of the biggest events of the year for the elementary students.

Work began in October with music rehearsals and auditions for the program's speaking parts.

Shortly after Thanksgiving, the children were expected to have their lines memorized. On Wednesday, there were few hiccups. The kindergartners knew the words and actions to "Away in a Manger," and the angels, shepherds, Three Wise Men and Mary and Joseph got dressed in their allotted 45 seconds.

The only problem was convincing the children to grab the microphones, so there weren't blocks of silence between speaking lines.

"(On Tuesday), they were grabbing the 'mics' before the others were done with their lines," Houston said. "We had to have a talk about that."

This year's program features numerous Christmas carols, but it also features catchy tunes with actions and messages for children and adults.

"I hate to wait for Christmas. It's been almost a year. It's hard to wait for Christmas. I wish it would get here," the children sang Tuesday.

Celeste Clydesdale is the composer for this year's program.

The Christian Heritage students seek the help of the townspeople, thinking they can't convince Mayor Pietig, played by 12-year-old Jack Pietig, all by themselves. Pietig said he is seeking re-election and wants to appease as many people as possible to secure as many votes as possible, a message the children hear but don't truly understand.

While knocking door-to-

door, the children meet a materialistic couple, a politically correct couple who believe in everything and a woman home alone with her children because her husband is in the Air Force.

Through these different houses and reactions to their caroling, the Christian Heritage children's Christmas beliefs are solidified.

Every year, Houston said she worries that the program won't come together, but that's part of being a director.

"My staff has rallied around me," said Houston, whose husband Brian was killed in a motorcycle accident earlier this year. Brian Houston was instrumental in pulling together the Christmas program.

But everyone has filled in and done whatever is necessary to get the stage built, the costumes ready and the children in place, Christel Houston said.

There was one portion of Tuesday's dress rehearsal that was perfect the first time through - the final bows.

The Christian Heritage program is at 7 p.m. today at the Christian Heritage School off U.S. Highway 40 on the west edge of Steamboat. It is free and open to the public.

To reach Melinda Mawdsley, call 871-4208

or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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