EUREKA SPRINGS, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Controversy over a nativity scene at Basin Park in Eureka Springs nearly put a stop to a decades-long tradition.
The nativity scene in question has been put up by the sorority, Beta Sigma Phi, since 1950. It’s been placed at Basin Park on and off since then. The Great Passion Play is now in charge of the display. Randall Christy, the executive director of The Great Passion Play, said he got a call from the mayor last week, asking that they take the display down this Christmas.
“We decided we’re not taking it down. We refused to take it down,” said Christy.
Since then, Christy was active on social media, posting a live report, updating citizens on what was happening. Christy’s Facebook live post gained thousands of likes, comments and shares.
According to Christy, on Monday morning, Mayor Butch Berry called to tell him the display could remain up this Christmas.
“People have just been pouring out — posting pictures, saying, ‘don’t take it down, don’t take it down,’ and the mayor has heard the cry of the people,” said Christy.
According to the Eureka Springs Mayor’s office, lawsuits had been threatened since 2018 if the display was not taken off of public property. According to Christy, the complaint was that the city was establishing a religion by keeping the display in a public area.
2019 was the last time the display was set up in Basin Park until this year.
Christy said he’s glad the community came through to support the decision, and he’s glad the tradition can carry on.
“It’s a great part of the decor and tradition in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and no one is asking anyone to worship anything,” said Christy.
People visited Basin Park on Monday to take pictures, fearing it would soon be taken down by the city. Belinda Stogsdill and Carrie Helkamp were among the visitors. They drove from the Springdale and Elm Springs area of Northwest Arkansas.
KNWA/FOX24 News reached out to the Eureka Springs mayor’s office for an interview, but they denied that request. It’s unknown if any lawsuits have been filed against the city in regard to the nativity scene.