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Trowbridge Zoo animals were the stars of live nativity at First Lutheran Church in Detroit Lakes

There were three brave shepherds, although they were more involved in handing out candy canes and posing for photos than watching over the flock, since the animals were safely confined in pens.

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Shepherd Tom Harper of Detroit Lakes shares a smile with a gregarious Trowbridge Zoo camel during the live nativity event at First Lutheran Church on Christmas Eve. (Nathan Bowe / Tribune)
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A grinning camel, a highland cow playing the part of an ox, a miniature donkey, and some fainting goats (along with some hardy shepherds) were the stars of an outdoor nativity scene on Christmas Eve at First Lutheran Church in Detroit Lakes.

All the animals are quite capable of dealing with Minnesota winters, said their keeper, Dusty Ebersviller, who owns the Trowbridge Creek Zoo near Vergas.

And they get around. This year, these and other Trowbridge Creek Zoo animals have played the role of manger animals in more than a dozen live nativity enactments in North Dakota and Minnesota, he said. “This is the final and 13th this year,” Ebersviller said Friday. That’s up from just four or five last year, he added.

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A Scottish Highlander cow, playing the part of a Christmas ox in a live nativity scene, poses for a photo on Friday at First Lutheran Church in Detroit Lakes. (Nathan Bowe/Tribune)

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There were three brave shepherds — Tom Harper, Nathan Olson and his son Brennan, 9 — although they were more involved in handing out candy canes and posing for photos than watching over the flock, since the animals were safely confined in pens.

“We were going to be wise men,” Harper joked, “but we decided wise men wouldn’t stand around out in the cold like this.”

The outdoor nativity scene got busy after the indoor service at First Lutheran ended around 4 p.m., and it wrapped up around 5 p.m., so people and animals could get out of the chill wind, warm up, and enjoy Christmas Eve at home.

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The camel was the hit of the live nativity scene at First Lutheran Church in Detroit Lakes on Christmas Eve. The shepherds are Nathan Olson and his son Brennan. (Nathan Bowe/Tribune)

The live nativity was first held at First Lutheran Church last year, because in-person services were not being held due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and church leaders wanted to do something outdoors and in-person, said Pastor Joe Skogmo.

“This summer we decided to do it again,” he said. “We might just have created a tradition.”

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