Pageant portrays history of Castle Valley in scenes evoking tears, laughter

Human actors, supported by a cast of 22 horses, one donkey and a milk cow, told the dramatic story of the settlement of Castle Valley in scenes that were both spiritual and humorous.

As they viewed the dramatic action sequences, some patrons laughed and cried - and then laughed again.The 17th season of the Castle Valley Pageant, energized with galloping horses, concluded here Aug. 6 with the last of eight performances.

Written by Montell Seely and directed by Bart Cox, the pageant, with an original musical score, is produced by the Castle Dale Region. It portrays a pioneer colonization representative of that which occurred in the West.

On. Aug. 22, 1877, President Brigham Young issued a call to settlers in central Utah's Sanpete Valley to go into Castle Valley, 35 miles east and colonize that region. That was reportedly the last call that Brigham Young extended, for he died seven days later.

A strong desire to honor pioneer ancestors compelled Brother Seely to write the script.

"I tried to write in the plain, everyday language of our pioneer forefathers," he said. "The incidents in the production are all based on real-life happenings."

An important factor in presenting the pageant effectively was a setting that would enhance the story. Brother Seely said he wanted the audience to sit on a hillside overlooking the valley, so that the panoramic view would be the backdrop for the production. After much praying and searching 18 years ago, he was led to a natural cedar-covered "bench" that seemed ideal. He felt that was an answer to his prayers, and the pageant has been held at that location since. The panoramic view from the audience shows off the cliff formations that give Castle Valley its name.

Each presentation of the pageant begins with a stirring flag ceremony. Riders on horses carry the flags of the various branches of the armed service, plus the American flag. When the Army theme song music begins, the Army rider comes into view riding full speed, carrying the Army flag. All in the audience who served in the Army are invited to stand.

The rider races over the hill, down the slope, through a pond of water in front of the audience, jumps a pole fence, rides feverishly back in front of the audience, comes to a sliding stop a few feet from the front row of spectators, then whirls and rides to the dugout home and stands at attention.

Next comes the Navy, Marine and Air Force riders, repeating the same procedure. The climax is the introduction of the American flag, accompanied by "Stars and Stripes Forever."

Riders come primarily from the family of Gary and Della Cox of the Castle Dale 1st Ward, Castle Dale Utah Stake, whose four grown children are all excellent horsemen. Last year one of their sons, Rodney, was struck by lightning while riding on horseback the afternoon of the final day of the pageant. His horse was killed, but he survived. He made a complete recovery and carried one of the flags in this year's ceremony.

One person who attended this year said: "The pageant is tightly written, uniquely staged and brilliantly directed and acted. We shed tears when the child and father died, and when the father saw his family in eternity."

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