City ordinance a roadblock, lesson for NS church Christmas program

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wwltv.com

Posted on November 28, 2012 at 7:37 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 28 at 7:49 PM

Ashley Rodrigue / Eyewitness News
Email: arodrigue@wwltv.com | Twitter: @ashleyrwwl

COVINGTON, La. -- A long-standing Christmas program on the Northshore has hit a speed bump on its 10th anniversary.

Church members at New Zion Baptist Church in Covington, who host the “Cradle to the Cross” driving tour, say for the first time, a Covington city signage law is being enforced on their promoting efforts.

The program is a free, 13-scene performance about the life of Jesus.

"Jesus is truly the reason for the season and we want to encourage people to keep Christ in Christmas," said Rev. Toby Hughes, associate pastor at New Zion.

The program, in its 10th year, involved hundreds of participants and draws thousands of spectators over a three-day period. It’s grown to be a tradition for some.

"It's a good feeling thing," Lionel Smith said.

Every year, the church puts out small signs across the Northshore to promote the event. But this year, that changed.

"We got a phone call," said Hughes, “Said that our signs were in violation of a city ordinance and we needed to take them down by the end of the day, very nice about it, but just letting us know."

That Covington city ordinance has actually been on the books for years and is common across St. Tammany Parish. It requires a $25 permit, per sign, and has several publicly-requested purposes.

"It's an issue of safety, fairness and the elimination of sign blight, the proliferation of signs on public property," said Covington Mayor Mike Cooper.

The city says the church’s signs may have just been overlooked in past years. Members agree rules are rules.

"We were thankful we've been able to get away with this, so to speak, for nine years, but we do understand that there is a proper procedure," said Hughes.

It’s a lesson learned for the future, but for this year, the show will go on.

"Cradle to the Cross” will be held this Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Click here to get more information about the program and the church.

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