Central Texas camels and livestock travel all over the state to participate in live nativity scenes during the Christmas season
VALLEY MILLS, Texas (KWTX) - Valley Mills residents are taking their camels on the road for the 26th year to be a part of live Nativity scenes across the state.
“We have traveled across the state providing all of the manger scene, basically everything except the baby Jesus,” Doug Baum, Valley Mills rancher, said.
Baum’s family started the tradition almost three decades ago with his family and livestock, including donkeys, sheep, goats and camels.
As a former zoo keeper, Baum always felt a warm connection to camels, and, while domesticated camels are a rarity in the U.S., Baum left the zoo and started raising camels in Valley Mills.
“They really captivated my attention,” he said. “I fell in love with them. And then, at a point, I realized these animals have some kind of effect on people. They get happy, they get warm feelings...”
Knowing that camels are a staple in the Nativity scene, Baum, along with his family and the camels, started participating in live nativity scenes for churches and organizations.
It quickly became a cherished tradition for the Baum family as the demand for them increased dramatically over the years.
“Even though we’ve done this for three decades, I never take for granted that there are folks who are seeing a camel for the first time,” Baum said. “I see it in the children’s eyes, I see it in the parent’s eyes...They are wowed, but, more importantly is that the message of Christmas gets brought to these folks through our camels.”
Baum said, this year, the group is traveling all corners of Texas, including spots in Central Texas, to participate in 36 Nativity scenes in 28 days.
He said it’s an extremely busy season for the crew, but they would not want it any other way.
“The thing I love is that it’s our family tradition for an entire generation now,” Baum said. “My kids have grown up knowing that, at Christmas time, this is what we do.”
Usually, churches request three camels to correspond with the three wise men; therefore, the Baum’s are able to schedule a few events at a time.
Baum raises seven camels with one on the way, and the oldest camel, Richard, is 26 years old.
They will be at Baylor’s Christmas on Fifth St. Thursday evening as well as First United Methodist Church in Valley Mills on Dec. 18 5-7 p.m. He said they will be anywhere from Texarkana to Austin to San Antonio.
“Somebody will be driving down Waco Drive or Valley Mills Drive or Highway 84, and then off to the side they’re going to see a live nativity scene...not the thing that you’ve got on your kitchen table or your dining room table, the cute little scene there, but a live version of it, and that wows folks,” Baum said. “But, the best part is that warm holiday feeling that folks get.”
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