ST. CATHARINES — The camel lay decapitated, the shepherd kicked from its base.
Staff arrived at city hall Thursday to find the manger on the building's front lawn had been vandalized.
"All the pieces were there. It seems like they were just kicked, and someone foolishly decided to take out their frustration on the Nativity scene," said operations foreman Jerry McLaughlin.
It's not known if the camel and shepherd, made of fibreglass and poly resin, can be repaired at all let alone for this Christmas season.
Both figures had been cemented onto a concrete base to protect them from theft, after someone stole three statues a decade ago.
This time, McLaughlin said, it appeared the goal was not trophies, but destruction.
"It's sad that in this day and age people would choose to do something to what is a yearly tradition and a spiritual tradition for some," McLaughlin said. "It's sad."
The manger on the corner of Church and James Sts. was freshly painted and glazed in fall 2009.
City staff removed the two damaged figures Thursday and tried to disguise the spaces left open with bales of hay and by repositioning the other figures.
"We've tried to set up the scene so it looks a little bit better than if we'd just pulled one away," McLaughlin said.
The city has been displaying a Nativity scene since 1965, when it was set up between the front steps of city hall and the sidewalk in a large planting bed.
Statues have been replaced and moved over time, spending seasons on a walkway at city hall and at the Rock Pile at the corner of St. Paul and Ontario Sts.
Due to a tremendous amount of vandalism at that intersection, the figures were moved back to city hall in 1998.
But even in that location, the manger was not immune to destruction.
In 1999, the concrete statues of Baby Jesus, an angel and one of the wise men were ripped from their positions and went missing.
The infant figure was later found tossed in some bushes at the nearby public library with a broken arm.
Ears were also pulled off a sheep and donkey and a second wise man was kicked in the head. Those damaged figures were repaired by parks staff, but the missing angel and wise man were not located.
Parks staff launched a worldwide search to replace the missing wise man with one that would be the same size as the other figures, which was not an easy feat. They searched 3,000 websites until they found a suitable replacement at the world's largest Christmas store in Frankenmouth, Mich. It cost US$1,930 for a wise man, Baby Jesus and angel.
Due to that vandalism, the city welded the entire manger scene to a cement base and the baby and crib were one solid piece fastened to the ground. The whole scene is now installed in three pieces that require a crane.
The camel's head had recently been repaired after vandalism, but for the most part the manger has been left alone for the past 10 years.
McLaughlin hoped the recent damage will mean more eyes will be will keep watch over the nativity scene.
"It's unfortunate something like this had to happen that will add to our security," McLaughlin said. "It's in the middle of a very busy area at Church and James St. You wouldn't think it would happen, but it has."
Answer by NotPanicking at 1:09 PM on Dec. 3, 2010
Answer by KristiS11384 at 1:09 PM on Dec. 3, 2010
Answer by LindaClement at 1:10 PM on Dec. 3, 2010
Answer by SuperChicken at 1:13 PM on Dec. 3, 2010
Answer by cbk_mom3 at 1:14 PM on Dec. 3, 2010
I think I am more upset because I thought it was a real camel when I read your headline....lol I am sure glad it was only fiberglass.
Answer by Conley639 at 1:14 PM on Dec. 3, 2010
Answer by KristiS11384 at 1:15 PM on Dec. 3, 2010
Answer by witchqueen at 1:16 PM on Dec. 3, 2010
Answer by okmanders at 1:51 PM on Dec. 3, 2010