Last year, Autumn was actually pregnant while playing Mary. "I can't imagine riding a donkey as long as she did pregnant. I rode around the house and was ready to get off."
Autumn's grandparents, Doug and Dianne, started the pageant 33 years ago and passed it on to Brad and Tammy 18 years ago. Autumn and Jeff plan to inherit it one day.
"This has always been my Christmas," Autumn says. "There were times growing up when we didn't really need any presents."
The garage becomes a dressing room, the power bill goes up about $150 and crowds have reached about a thousand. The show is three times per night on the three nights before Christmas, and it's all set to a pre-recorded soundtrack, which includes Joy to the World, Silent Night and We Three Kings.
The pageant thrives on support from the whole family, including six children and three grandchildren. The local LDS ward always offers help set up, and neighbors thoughtfully turn off their own Christmas lights for the performances.
Three years ago, the family realized someone forgot to put baby Jesus in the manger mid-pageant. After an exhaustive search, Jeff quietly snuck the doll to the front of the stage. The crowd never knew, but the Hunts stayed up late that night laughing about it.
"I just hope people will take the opportunity to take a break from the commercial Christmas to see what it's really about," says Jeff. "We're giving them that opportunity."
Jeff is in pharmacy school and Autumn is the office manager at Ensign Systems in Kaysville. Once Jeff graduates, they will move with their daughter Ellie somewhere they can keep animals, because donkeys, ponies, llamas, chicken and sheep are part of the show. This year, the family hopes to bring in a camel, and angels will join the chorus for Joy to the World to close the performance.
"I don't think, especially since I've gotten older, there's been a time I watched it without getting emotional," Autumn says. "You watch other people tear up and just know they're feeling the spirit, and we've accomplished what we wanted to."
Contact Tammy Hunt for more information on the Miracle of Christmas pageant at 801-731-4819 or e-mail HYPERLINK "mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org" email@example.com. Call ahead for special seating arrangements and wheelchairs.