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Farragut woman backbone of Nativity Pageant


Farragut resident Susan Robinson led the way this year to help make the Nativity Pageant a success.- Tracy K. Morgan/farragutpress
As the president of the board of directors of the Nativity Pageant of Knoxville, Inc., Farragut resident Susan Robinson found herself busy “fighting fires.”

Such is life during last minute preparations for the three-day pageant held earlier this week (Dec. 14 to 16) in the Civic Coliseum.

“It’s like being CEO, CFO, secretary, file clerk, and receptionist all rolled up into one job,” she said.


Robinson has been on the job since early March when she took over as president. She estimates she worked 30 hours per week leading up to pageant, “and the week before the pageant it’s crazy, probably fifty to sixty hours. There are always things that go awry, but boy am I tired.”

Having celebrated its 35th year, the Nativity Pageant of Knoxville is a pantomime drama, which combines a cast of more than 90 who presented the Christmas story to an estimated 15,000 people in the Knox County community.

“As board members, we are amazed at the number of people who volunteer their time to participate in the pageant in some way,” Robinson said. “We have choir members, cast members, board members, advisory board members, professional directors, ushers, those who apply make-up, special music groups, and many, many people from the community who give of their time and talent to see this event happen.”

According to Robinson, the idea for the pageant originated in the late 1960s, when some Knoxville women saw a Southern Living magazine article about an outdoor Nativity Pageant in Marshall, N.C. They traveled to the pageant, liked the idea, and decided to involve the Knoxville community in a similar celebration.

The first pageant, in 1969, was held outdoors in the Knoxville Coliseum parking lot on a cold and snowy day. The next year it was moved inside the Coliseum and has been held there ever since.

Southern Living magazine representatives were in Knoxville for this year’s pageant to gather information and photos for an article to be published next year.

There are 26 women on the pageant’s board of directors, eight of whom are Farragut residents (Brenda Booth, Sarah Daniels, Mary DiGangi, Donna Farinella, Debbie Raines, Robin Rolland, Danny Faye Sullivan, and Robinson).

Each board member commits to a period of time ranging from two to five years. Robinson was selected by the nominating committee two years ago to be the 2003 board president.

After serving five years, “we are put out to pasture, thank goodness,” Robinson joked.

“There is no one person who holds a position over time to oversee the operation of the pageant,” she added. “This consistent change guarantees that the board members remain enthusiastic, fresh and excited about this event.”

The board members feel passionate about the Nativity Pageant, Robinson explained, “because we believe that we have something special to offer the community. In a world that constantly seeks to be entertained, the pageant presents simply, yet powerfully, the true meaning of Christmas.”

Robinson said the Christmas story annually tells about the Immaculate Conception, miraculous birth and humble beginnings of the savior of the Christian faith, Jesus Christ.

The pageant, which was budgeted at more than $55,000 this year, is presented to the community free of charge each year.

Expenses are met entirely by individual and business contributions. Robinson said the pageant is not included in the budget of any church. “If the community were not so generous with its donations of goods and services,” she said, “it is estimated that our budget would be two to three times as much.”

Last year’s pageant was presented for the first time to the Hispanic community through a simulcast Spanish translation. “This is a very exciting opportunity,” Robinson said, “as someday we hope to offer a completely Spanish performance.”

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