An unexpected sight caught Carol Luft's eye as she and her family drove past The Duvall Church's parking lot Wednesday night. Among children dressed like...

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An unexpected sight caught Carol Luft’s eye as she and her family drove past The Duvall Church’s parking lot Wednesday night.

Among children dressed like angels and shepherds and men in long, colorful robes playing the Three Wise Men stood an 8-foot-tall, 2,000-pound camel nonchalantly chewing on hay.

Luft and her family stopped.

“Who knew you’d get close enough to pet a camel in Duvall?” Luft asked.

Hannibal the camel is in Duvall this week enjoying celebrity status in The Duvall Church’s “Live Nativity” production.

Straight from the far east of Washington, just outside of Spokane, the full grown, one-hump Arabian camel arrived late Wednesday. It’s the second time Hannibal has played the role of camel in the Nativity production, and church pastor Chris Hill admits he’s the star of the show.

“We’d like to think that it is Jesus, but the camel is the main draw,” Hill said.

The Duvall Church “Live Nativity”


Where: The Duvall Church, 15520 Main St. N.E., Duvall. The “Live Nativity” production is on the church’s upper parking lot, off Stella Street.

When: The free show continues nightly through Saturday, from 6:30 to 9 p.m.

It was Hill who hatched the idea of creating a Nativity production when he arrived at the church three years ago. He asked his staff members to look for a camel.

“I’ve never seen [a Nativity scene] brought this far,” Hill said. “But to put it over the top was going to be a camel.”

Hannibal stars in one of several tableaux set up in the church parking lot to commemorate the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Cast along with Hannibal for the four-day run are several goats, a 200-pound sheep and 30 to 50 volunteer actors. The 500-member congregation expects about 1,000 visitors to the show.

Standing next to the crowd of onlookers Wednesday was Ed Benhardt, Hannibal’s owner and handler.

Hannibal lives on a 30-acre ranch with Benhardt and an assortment of zebras, reindeer and exotic birds. Benhardt raises, rents and sells exotic animals for a living.

Camels long have been domesticated, Benhardt said. He described Hannibal as a mellow camel, content to chew on carrots and people-watch.

But this week, the people are doing the watching. On opening night, both kids and parents stared intently at Hannibal, taking pictures, feeding him carrots and reaching out to pet him.

Hailey Herrmann, 5, stood next to Hannibal’s pen, her head tilted almost all the way back to look at the tall beast. “I didn’t know camels were real,” she said.