New nativity scene graces Hayden |

New nativity scene graces Hayden

Craig artist Nini Shroyer sits Dec. 1 in front of the nativity scene she was commissioned to create for Hayden.

— The Christmas spirit is a little more lively this year in Hayden thanks to a community effort to rebuild its cherished nativity scene.

For years, the town proudly displayed a scene it had inherited from Hayden resident Moose Ongaro, who died in 1990. Ongaro would set it up every year at his home along Jefferson Avenue on the west side of town.

The hard Northwest Colorado winters eventually weathered the cutouts depicting the birth of Jesus. When they were taken out of storage this summer, community leaders knew something had to be done.

"It finally just deteriorated," resident Donna Hellyer said.

Hellyer along with other Hayden residents, decided to start raising funds to rebuild the nativity scene. Since the fall, residents have donated through their churches and in donation jars at area businesses. The town is close to its goal of raising $1,500.

With the money they raised, residents were able to commission Craig painter Nini Shroyer to build the new nativity scene. Shroyer donated much of her time.

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She chose characters from existing pieces of art — both new and old. For example, the camels were inspired from a photo that appeared in a National Geographic magazine. Some of the other characters originally were painted in the early 1500s.

Shroyer cut pieces of plywood for the shapes and then used sign paint to bring them to life.

"Each of the characters took a full day on their own, and I'm talking 12-hour days," Shroyer said.

The new nativity scene was set up Dec. 1, and Shroyer got to see the final result. Hellyer said the community loved it.

"It makes you feel good that it makes other people feel good," Shroyer said.

Hellyer said the town takes pride in the new addition, which is located along Jefferson Avenue at Main Street Park.

"It's Christmas, and it belongs to the community," Hellyer said.

A plaque will be added later to honor the late Eileen Coffelt, who for years would set up the nativity scene with her husband, Lee.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email