News From Terre Haute, Indiana

March 30, 2013

Passion in the Park: 35 people gather at Fairbanks Park to watch reenactment of Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection

‘It puts everything in perspective,’ viewer says

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Paula Allen and her family were among about 35 people who watched a re-enactment of the Passion of Christ Friday evening at Fairbanks Park.

It’s the fifth year for Passion in the Park, an interactive, non-denominational depiction of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.

Allen attended with her husband, Justin, and their four children.

“We wanted to give our kids a visual of what Jesus went through for us,” she said, after the family had just watched one scene, the Last Supper, in which Jesus predicted, “Tonight, one of you will betray me.”

The family attended last year. “It’s moving, touching,” Paula Allen said.

“It puts everything in perspective,” said her husband.

From the betrayal by Judas to sentencing by Pontius Pilate, subsequent flogging and crucifixion, the re-enactors drew the crowd in as they passionately called out their lines.

Once again, Les Rivera portrayed Jesus, and Rivera wants the depiction as realistic as possible — to the point where he wants the Roman soldiers to really beat him, not act.

During the crucifixion, Rivera is strapped to a cross which is hoisted upright for the crowd to watch. He utters, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.”

This year, Rivera’s daughter, Destinee, 17, portrayed Mary, mother of Jesus, as part of Passion in the Park during the 6 p.m. reenactment. It’s her third year to participate. “It’s a family thing. Also, it draws me closer to God. It gives me a little hint of what Jesus went through,” Destinee Rivera said.

Betty Rivera — Les’ real-life mother — normally portrays Jesus’ mother, Mary, but this time, she served as Mary Magdalene. She’s participated in Passion in the Park every year except one.

“It’s a very emotional, touching thing. I think that it’s a wonderful way to show people, really show them, what it’s all about, instead of them just reading the story,” Betty Rivera said. “To see my son actually, physically, get beat, because he won’t let them fake it, makes me realize what Mary must have really gone through. When I see my own son being beat for real, it puts me in her position.”

Among those in the audience was Trudy Coffin of Brazil, whose husband, Mike, performed in the Passion. It’s her husband’s third time to participate.

“It’s really inspiring. They do a good job and work really hard. They are very committed,” she said. She pointed out that some of the actors, including Les Rivera, are barefoot, even though it’s cold out.

Also attending was Juanita Baldridge of Terre Haute and her son, Richard. “We’re always thinking about the Bible,” she said.  She wanted to see the Passion in the Park depiction of the death and resurrection of the Lord.

The Baldridge’s, who attended for the first time, brought their two dogs, both a Chihuahua and dachshund mix.

Lori Aplin, minister with Senior Education Ministries, helps organize Passion in the Park along with several other churches and groups.

For the first time this year, the group had to pay $150 per evening to use the Fairbanks Park amphitheater, similar to other groups, Aplin said. But after an appeal on the radio, a church, another organization and individuals came up with the funds.

There have been more volunteers this year, more help setting up and vehicles were donated to transport equipment. “It’s been unreal how much help we’ve gotten,” Aplin said.

Performances will continue today and Easter Sunday at 6 p.m., 7 p.m. and 8 p.m., she said, rain or shine. One year, there was a blizzard, but the Passion went on.  

“We want people to know that Jesus didn’t just come at Christmas as a baby and that was the end of the story. We do it because there is more to the story,” Aplin said.

God had a plan for his Son, “to have him die because He was taking on each of our sins. As a result, that wasn’t the end of the world. There was a hope for tomorrow because he was resurrected. Now we have a hope for tomorrow.”

The story is Biblical and historical, she said. “This isn’t just a pretend story. It’s for real.”

Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or

Check it out

n “Passion in the Park” will be performed at 6, 7 and 8 p.m., today and Sunday at Fairbanks Park. It is free for the public.