ALGONA, IA (CBS/KCCI) -- In many counties, the fairgrounds are quiet during the winter. Not so in Algona, Iowa, where people are showing up to see a holiday work of art. This creation honoring peace on Earth was inspired by both love and war.
Like a proud papa, Marv Chickering believes he's been entrusted with a true gift. A massive, intricate nativity, built of wood, covered with concrete, then coated in plaster and painted.
Sixty-five pieces, enough to fill an entire building at Algona's fairgrounds. He says, "These figures are half life size and that doesn't begin to tell the story."
Because that story is where it gets good. He says, "It was a God wink that Edward Keib came here."
In 1944, Edward Keib landed in Algona by force. A German taken prisoner of war, sentenced to a POW camp built where Algona's airport now stands. That first Christmas hurt. Chickering says, "So six of them chose to build this out of a labor of love."
A reminder to his fellow prisoners it was Christmas. Chickering says "His only intention was to help the men forget their lonliness. He didn't intend it to be a work of art. And he screwed up big time on that because they captured expressions on faces and they were artists in every sense of the word."
Keib led the six sculptors, but Chickering says, "But the prisoners all pitched in to help pay for the cost of building this. $8,000."
From prisoners who earned 10 cents an hour. But when the war ended, they gave it to Algona. Chickering says, "These prisoners became so thoroughly a part of this community and they came as enemies and left as friends."
Every December day since the war, hundreds have come to see a gift from a former enemy who wanted Iowans to remember Christmas is still Christmas whatever your circumstances.