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Calvary Lutheran Church in Willmar, Minn., hosts Advent Festival

Millie Buer is one of the organizers of the volunteers who will create 17 different areas decorated to tell the Advent story at the Calvary Lutheran Church Advent Festival in Willmar. (Tribune photo by Gary Miller)

WILLMAR -- Calvary Lutheran Church hosts its Advent Festival this weekend at the church along the 300 block of Olena Avenue Southeast in Willmar.

The event "Ponder Anew - What the Almighty Can Do" is from 1 to 7 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday and from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday.

This is the 52nd year of the church's festival, a gift from the church to the community, according to co-leader Krista Willis. Willis and her mother, Millie Buer, are organizing a host of volunteers who create the 17 different areas decorated to tell the Advent story.

"It is a gift to the community from our church," Willis said. "It is such a nice peaceful way to relax before the holiday season."

Each of the areas are decorated to tell what the Advent season -- the anticipation and preparation for the birth of the Christ Child -- means to the church, Buer said. Each area has a theme Bible verse. Included are the prophets from the past who foretold the birth, the present time and mission of the church and the future, how God continues to help the faithful and how we remember those who have passed on. The future portion of the story includes a memorial tree for loved ones.

The festival will include continuous music, played in the church sanctuary by numerous vocal and instrumental choirs, ensembles and soloists. The musicians include students from the Willmar High and Middle schools and Ridgewater College, along with many community musicians.

There will also be punch, cider, coffee and treats, including Scandinavian goodies like lefse, plus Christmas cookies and goodies.

"People are invited to listen to wonderful music," Buer said. "And have good things to eat and drink."

The decorated areas of the church will have a wide array of unique ways to help visitors learn about the Advent season. There will be interactive displays, live acting of the Bible stories, craft projects, making Christmas tree ornaments for both children and adults, movies and popcorn and other fun and engaging ways to learn.

"There is something that appeals to everyone," Buer said. "It is very family orientated."

In another way to keep children of all ages engaged, the festival includes a game of finding the Baby Jesus in each room. Children who turn in their paper with all 17 rooms checked receive a prize.

Organizers are expecting about 3,000 people to visit the church over the three-day event. The church event dates back to 1959, when it began as an Advent Tea. Because of the magnitude of organizing and executing the festival, it is an every-other-year event.

The event is free and open to everyone. All areas of the church are completely accessible to wheelchairs and strollers. There will be hosts and hostesses available to answer questions and direct visitors through the displays.

Get more information by going to or call 320-235-2508.

Gretchen Schlosser

Gretchen Schlosser is the public safety reporter, and writes about agriculture occasionally, for the West Central Tribune. She's been with the Tribune since 2006 and has 17 years of experience working in news, media and communications. 

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