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Passion for the Nativity
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Toni Conway has collected over 800 nativities and is opening up her home to allow the public to view her finds over two weekends in December (FRANKIE TOVAR/The Journal).

A collection of nearly 800 plus nativity sets of every size, shape and material will be on display at a free Christmas open house. For more than 33 years, Toni Conway has collected nativities and every other year she converts each room in her home, a separate showroom, and her garage into a showcase of the birth of Christ.

Conway’s Nativity Open House opens Friday and continues through Dec. 8 and then is open again the weekend of Dec. 20-22. The Conway home is located at 3242 S. Carpenter Rd., Modesto. Friday and Saturday hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday hours are from 1 to 8 p.m. There is no admission charge and refreshments will be served. Voluntary donations will benefit the Salvation Army.

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Toni Conway has been collecting nativities from around the world for over 30 years (FRANKIE TOVAR/The Journal).

“This is my ministry,” said Conway. “It takes a three-person team more than four weeks to unpack and setup the collection.

“I invite everyone to spread the word, bring friends and share the event with others. All ages are welcome to enjoy the true meaning of Christmas.”

In 2017, over 1,000 guests passed through the Conway showcase, including several busloads from local clubs, group residences and churches.

Conway's unique and varied collection includes a nativity set from Mexico sculpted from boiled potatoes, a nativity set from Kenya made of banana leaves and even a set from Columbia made from orange peels.

The smallest nativity in the collection is one-half of a playing marble and the largest is life-size. Toni and Bob Conway bought their first nativity scene when they were married 54 years ago. The 1997 death of her mother fueled a passion to collect more sets and now her amazing collection of nearly 800 nativity scenes is available for viewing during the four-day open house at their rural home in front of Valley Harvest Nut, the family farm.