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Kathleen Himber
Rick Denos of Mission Viejo and Brianna Hobbins of Trabuco Canyon hold Claire Himber playing baby Jesus, in this year's Follow the Star event s in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.

RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA, Calif. — Residents of California's South County came together for the 16th annual "Follow the Star" event hosted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Rancho Santa Margarita, which includes the Santa Margarita California Stake.

The event, which includes a live nativity as well as an indoor display of creches from around the world, “gives our neighbors in the community a chance to share in this special spirit of peace and joy during the Christmas season,” said Jeffrey Shields, one of the volunteers running the event, which was Dec. 13, 14 and 15.

The show is organized and run by community volunteers. “It takes over a 1,000 volunteers hours to set up and run this event, and that doesn’t take into account the hours our volunteers spent on coordination,” said Bethany Warnick of Rancho Santa Margarita the "Follow the Star" project leader.

In addition to the live animals included in the performance, the nativity presentation casts amateur teens and adults playing the roles in the story of the birth of Jesus Christ. A unique part of the cast are the young babies which portray the Christ child himself. Babies 5 months old and younger uare cradled by an actress portraying Mary, who also places the child in a manger.

Kathleen Himber from Foothill Ranch was a little hesitant when first asked if she would like her daughter to participate. “I’m very careful about who I trust my daughter with, but then we got really excited about it. What an awesome memory to have our baby in such an important role for Christmas!”

Approximately 4,600 community members attended "Follow the Star," organizers estimated.

Karen Lake lives in Southern California and has served as the media director for the Santa Margarita Stake for more than six years. She has published more than 500 articles and when she isn't writing, she is performing or teaching singing lessons.