Saturday, December 6, 2003

Light display focuses on Bible



By John Kiesewetter
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Students from a Fairfield Schools latchkey program look at the life-size Nativity figurines at the Niederman Christmas Farm "Walk Through the Bible" display.
(Michael Snyder photo)
They come, following the bright star - and the thousands of lights.

Nearly 20,000 people have traveled to a Butler County farm to see life-size Nativity figurines, including the Christ child in the manger, and 15 huge oil paintings depicting scenes from the Bible, all bathed in tens of thousands of Christmas lights.

"I never dreamed we'd have all these people here," says Bob Niederman, 70, who has opened his 200-acre farm on LeSourdsville-West Chester Road as a free Christmas display for a third year. "I never dreamed that people would appreciate a display like this."

The walking tour, ringing an 11-acre wheat field, is unlike any Christmas display in Greater Cincinnati.

No Santa's sleigh, Rudolph or Frosty the Snowman are seen among the 100 decorated Christmas trees along the half-mile sealed-gravel path.

"Not that we're opposed to Santa or anything," Bob says, "but after all, this is the reason we celebrate Christmas. It's Jesus' birthday."

IF YOU GO
[IMAGE]
Niederman's Christmas Farm is a half-mile walking tour. Dress warmly. Sealed flat gravel surface makes it easy for wheelchairs and strollers. No pets allowed.

When: 5:30-10 p.m. daily through Dec. 30.

What: A half-mile "Walk Through the Bible" with a life-size nativity, 15 painted Bible scenes, 100 decorated Christmas trees and thousands of lights.

Cost: Free

Directions: From Interstate 75, take the Michael Fox Highway (Ohio 129) west to Ohio 747. Go right on Ohio 747 for three miles. Turn right on Kyles Station Road, and go one mile. Turn left on LeSourdsville-West Chester Road, and go one-half mile to "Christmas Lights" sign at 4972 LeSourdsville-West Chester Road.

Information: (513) 887-0725 or Web site

Three years ago, he and Janet, his wife of 49 years, bought the lights and life-size nativity figures from Carl Rudd, whose Christmas display had drawn thousands to rural Adams County. The Rudd collection, however, makes up just one-third of the Niederman Christmas Farm "Walk Through The Bible" five miles north of the Michael Fox Highway (Ohio 129).

"We had always talked about doing a Christmas display. We checked into trying to buy some life-sized Bible characters, and we couldn't find them. Just about that time, we heard about Rudd's auction," says Bob, whose father bought this farm in 1949.

The couple, who also operate the Gregory Creek Inn bed-and-breakfast on their land, added 15 large oil paintings depicting scenes from the Old and New testaments.

In the first two years, people have come from 26 states to see the Niederman Christmas Farm. Some church groups call ahead and ask to perform on the barn stage, or to help serve hot cocoa.

Visitors may sign a registry or drop a dollar into a barn-shaped bank. That's the only way the Niedermans recoup the thousands they spend on Christmas decorations, the power to light them, and paving the walkway and 120 parking spaces. They refuse to talk about their investment, though Janet concedes that "our electric bill is pretty horrendous" in January.

"It is amazing what this family has done for the community," says Nancy Metzler, a Fairfield Schools latchkey program employee who toured the display recently with 200 students.

"This is wonderful. I've got family coming in from out of town for the holidays, and I'm going to bring them here," Metzler says.

Her school children also liked seeing the farm animals, a new addition to the tour this year. Bob has opened two barns for visitors to see llamas, ducks, pigs, cows, goats, turkeys, chickens and a pony.

A new white star shines from the silo this year, one that alternates every blink with a huge red electric cross. Each year he adds a little more from after-Christmas bargains on electric lights.

How many boxes does he buy?

"We bought pallets, not boxes," Bob says. "People always ask, 'What's new this year?' And I tell them: 'We can add lights and things, but you know, the Bible doesn't change.'"

E-mail jkiesewetter@enquirer.com




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