Expo Center to host new ‘Christmas Experience’

This year will be far different than years past.

The weather could be frightful, but s’mores and fire pits are so delightful — and with crafts, carolers, and gingerbread glow, get ready for the Expo Center’s winterland show.

This year, instead of a “parade-in-place”, the new event is being called “A Christmas Experience and Live Nativity”, given the numerous changes coming to one of Enumclaw’s more popular holiday attractions.

The Expo Center started hosting Christmas events in 2020 when the annual parade down Cole Street was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the name suggests, the “parade” — complete with floats, lights, music, and even ballet and a Live Nativity — stayed in place while visitors drove a pre-planned route through the grounds.

More than 2,500 cars visited the first year, and just over 2,000 the second.

Expo Center Director Rene Popke said they wanted to switch up the event because they weren’t getting enough participation from individuals, businesses, and other organizations setting up floats, and the cold and rain were becoming a danger factor.

“We simply can’t fight mother nature and ended up rebuilding and tried to secure exhibits multiple times,” Popke continued. “The weather actually became dangerous with the amount of cords and standing water we had last year.”

So this year, instead of driving around the Expo, visitors will be able to peruse the grounds at their leisure, and the entertainment will be far more interactive (and maybe more importantly, inside a building).

First, families may want to visit the Les Schwab Hall for make-and-take crafts, cookie decorating, and photo opportunities with Anna and Elsa (“Frozen”), Buddy the Elf (“Elf”), Buzz Lightyear (“Lightyear”), and Santa (no reference needed). There will also be a variety of performances by Dance It Up and story time with Mrs. Clause.

Down at the Rocking Bar H Livestock Barn will be the Living Nativity, organized by Grace Point Church and featuring biblical characters, angels, and the star of the show, Hank the camel.

“Visitors to the live Nativity will be fully immersed into the town of Bethlehem. Explore the sights and sounds of the bustling marketplace including a Blacksmith, spices, jewelry and candles, exotic fabrics and more. The lucky few will be able to find accommodations at the Bethlehem Inn but book early, it fills up fast,” Living Nativity director Cindy Wall described. “But don’t worry, because there are many campsites close to town where you can stay with the friendly shepherds. Enjoy the angelic sounds of the Heavenly Hosts. From there it’s just a small journey to a manger where a humble King rests. Don’t forget to pay your taxes or there will be a stiff penalty!”

And in between the two at the intersection on Expo Main Street and the Northern Trail will be a gingerbread house lighting ceremony at 6 p.m. each night, complete with Christmas carolers organized by Stitched, a local vintage and retro clothing and costumes business.

The Christmas Experience is two days only, on Dec. 10 from 4 to 9 p.m. and Dec. 11 from 4 to 8 p.m. Tickets, which are $5 per person (ages 2 and under are admitted free), can be bought online at www.enumclawexpocenter.com or on-site.

VIP tickets are also for sale — for $50, a group of six have the opportunity to roast s’mores and enjoy hot cocoa over a fire pit (40 minute limit) and receive a special gift from ol’ St. Nick himself. VIP ticket holders, which can only be bought online, also get to park in a special lot.