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The first rule of theater, “Leave them wanting more” trumped the second rule, “The show must go on,” as the 28th annual Solvang Christmas Nativity Pageant was limited to a single performance Dec. 15 because of weather. While the re-enactment of the Christmas story went on without a hitch, the second performance scheduled for 7 p.m. was cancelled because of safety concerns related to weather, especially for the participating children and animals. As the rain turned from a light mist to a steady downpour before the final performance was to commence, organizer Steve Battaglia announced to the cast and crew the show could not continue.

While those arriving for the subsequent performance expressed disappointment they would not be able to see the elaborately staged presentation of the Nativity Story, hundreds of audience members exiting the preceding show provided glowing reviews.

As in previous years, the Christmas-themed presentation featured live musical accompaniment, children and adults dressed as shepherds, kings and angels dressed in costumes lent to the production from the PCPA Theaterfest. In addition to the human actors, animals owned by private individuals and the Santa Ynez 4H Chapter members, added authenticity to the portrayal of the birth of Christ. Many of the young actors donning nativity regalia were literally tending their herd.

Santa Ynez 4H community leader Harriet Heath sees participating in the Christmas Pageant an opportunity for 4H members to develop leadership skills. Member and pageant volunteers Emily Martinez and Kayla Hutchinson agreed taking part in this community-sponsored holiday event has a positive impact on their lives. Martinez and Hutchinson, both wearing angel costumes, were clearly at ease and confident while assisting younger 4H members with their animals. While some who join in the pageantry do so to as part of their organization or club, other cast members are motivated by a desire to spread the message of Christianity.

Efrem Zimbalist Jr. has only missed one year since 1995 donating his time and world-class talent to narrate the story of the birth of Christ. Sitting ‘stage right’ in a cozy reading chair, Zimbalist, appearing significantly younger than his stated age of 94, used his deep, rich voice to tell the Yuletide tale to the standing-room only crowd. Zimbalist, star of stage, screen and television, is perhaps best remembered for his starring roles in the popular television shows “77 Sunset Strip” and “The FBI.” Known for most of his career as a dramatic leading man, Zimbalist proved he could deliver as a comedic actor when cast as the pilot who was blinded mid-flight, working with Charlton Heston in the popular Airport 1975.

Post-performance Zimbalist greeted admirers and posed for a picture with Alexis Miranda, telling the 6-year-old she was “a beautiful angel.” Appreciative locals and Christmas season tourists alike expressed gratitude for an opportunity to see such a first-rate program free of charge.