Church's live Christmas display takes flight
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Lakeland, Florida
Highland Park Church of the Nazarene in Lakeland, Florida, made national headlines this week after Rudy, a tiny deer named after Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, tried to fly early this holiday season from the church's live Christmas display.

Rudy the reindeer, who is a cast member in the church's annual Lights of Lakeland event, jumped a fence and began wondering the neighborhood.

"We didn't think it could jump over a 6-1/2-foot tall fence that had just a 2-foot opening at the top," Dave Ramsey, the church's executive pastor, told the Tampa Tribune. "Nobody thought this little deer could jump and aim that well. But it did."

Rudy's flight was short, however, as he was found under a display 90 minutes later. His owner took him into custody.

More than 500 volunteers participate in the Highland Park Church's event - parking cars, directing traffic, stringing lights, building sets, baking cookies, entertaining guests, and acting out a live nativity in the town of Bethlehem. The church brings in live cows, donkeys, camels, and other animals for the nativity scene.

The event is free to the public; its the church's Christmas gift to the community.

As for Rudy, he may sit out the rest of the season if he tries to take flight again, his owner said. Church workers tried to get a full-sized reindeer for the display, but it reportedly cost too much to get it shipped from North Carolina. Rudy was the next best thing.

"The kids think it is awesome to see this little reindeer," Ramsey told the Tribune.

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--Central Florida District via NCN News submissions

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