MANSFIELD — BibleWalk, a life-size wax museum, will celebrate its 25th anniversary by offering 25-cent tours Sunday through Aug. 17.
BibleWalk, also known as The Living Bible Museum, 500 Tingley Ave., opened Aug. 15, 1987. The original museum consisted of 19 scenes highlighting the Old and New Testaments. At that time, the mannequins were referred to as museum-quality Fiberglas.
The museum now features more than 70 dioramas and more than 300 wax figures.
Twenty-five years later BibleWalk has expanded into four unique tours: The Life of Christ (60 minutes); The Miracles of the Old Testament (60 minutes); The Museum of Christian Martyrs (30 minutes); and The Heart of the Reformation (30 minutes).
“It has become the largest religious wax museum in the world,” said director Julia Mott-Hardin. “We have one of three original Madame Tussaud’s ‘Last Suppers.’ There’s one in New York City, one in London, England. We have the third,” she said.
She said visitors from Detroit are No. 1 in terms of motorcoach tours.
The Mansfield-Richland County Convention and Visitors Bureau said BibleWalk is consistently a top motorcoach attraction in Richland County, along with Kingwood Center.
Jodie Puster, group tour and media director at the visitors bureau, said about 200 motorcoaches came to the BibleWalk site last year. “They will eat in area restaurants. They come strictly for BibleWalk or other attractions on their tour itinerary,” she said.
BibleWalk, near the historic Ohio State Reformatory prison-turned-museum, may see about 50,000 visitors this year, Mott-Hardin said.
“The Number One comment is so many people come out and they really are in tears and they’ll look at us and say, ‘What is this we feel? We’ve never felt this before.’ Truly what it is, is God’s love,” she said.
“Within a 10-day period we had people from seven different countries and 24 different states. We get people from all over the world. It doesn’t matter if they speak English,” she said.
To tour the entire museum requires about 3 1/2 hours, Mott-Hardin said.
De’Ja Ladd, 12, of Aurora, toured the museum Monday with family and friends.
“I think it’s really cool because there’s a lot of details and it tells the story of Christ one scene at a time,” she said.
Also on display at BibleWalk area collection of rare Bibles and Braille Bibles; religious wood carvings; three animated scenes donated by the American Bible Society; and the largest collection of American votive folk art to be found in the United States, Mott-Hardin said.
“Actually. our collection of American votive folk art was once a museum in itself. It was known as The Gem Vespers Museum in Barton, New York. We were most thankful when it was donated to us in its entirety,” she said.
BibleWalk also is home to the Christian Dinner Theater aptly named “Dinner with Grace.” Three seasonal plays are offered throughout the year. A list reservation form can be found at www.biblewalk.us
The tourism attraction is operated mostly by volunteers.
The idea and planning for the museum were done by the Rev. Richard Diamond of Diamond Hill Cathedral. Although church members support the museum, the two are separate entities.
“As we look back with most thankful hearts to God for allowing us to present His Holy Bible in this unique way, we also look ahead with equally thankful hearts for what God has prepared for us in the future,” Mott-Hardin said.
“We really want people to come out and take advantage of the 25-cent tours and celebrate our 25th anniversary with us,” she said.
BibleWalk plans to add tours in the next couple of years, including “The Journeys of Paul” and “The American Christian Heritage,” she said.
Hours for the 25-cent tours are 3 to 7 p.m. Sunday and 9 to 6 p.m. Monday through Aug. 17.