It was an evening of joy, color, song and spectacle culminating months of celebration and 150 years of faith, commitment and sacrifice.
Some 130,000 people witnessed the Pioneer Sesquicentennial Spectacular at BYU Cougar Stadium over its two-night performance July 24-25. Thousands more viewed it over the Church's satellite system and by tape delay over KBYU-TV.Four water fountains, 130 automated light fixtures, a 500-foot "Mormon Trail" and video scenes displayed on a huge television screen were among elements making the stadium an immense multi-media theatrical setting. Three thousand balloons, 600 flags, four campfires, four maypoles, 200 confetti cannons and fireworks augmented the spectacle.
The Tabernacle Choir, Mormon Youth Chorus and Symphony, Utah Valley Children's Concert Choir and Utah Valley Family Choir underscored musically the talents of BYU alumni and student performers from the Young Ambassadors, Living Legends and Folk Dancers. Hundreds of community participants rounded out the cast of thousands.
Wagons and handcarts from the sesquicentennial wagon train that crossed Iowa, Nebraska and Wyoming were featured. Gov. James Edgar and his wife, Brenda, from Illinois were special guests.
At the opening, President Gordon B. Hinckley and his two counselors in the First Presidency, President Thomas S. Monson and President James E. Faust, were escorted by children across the Mormon Trail to the center of the field. President Hinckley addressed the audience briefly.
Segments of the show, played out on four stages, depicted the Restoration of the Church, the persecution endured by the Saints, the expulsion from Nauvoo and the arrival in the Salt Lake Valley. From there the show segued into a "celebration of nations," to which the gospel has spread, with performers descending from the stands and taking the stages, where dances from four different antions were performed simultaneously.
An emotional moment for many viewers came prior to the finale featuring the "Faith in Every Footstep" hymn composed for the sesquicentennial. Some 3,600 missionaries from the Missionary Training Center in Provo marched onto the field singing "Called to Serve."
"My personal feeling is that the show was about as close to a Zion experience as I could imagine," commented Jayne B. Malan, a member of the general Pioneer Sesquicentennial Committee with responsibility for the Spectacular.
"Each person in that cast brought their piece that they and only they could do and combined to make it a magnificent whole. That is the genius of the whole thing, from the producers down to the little child carrying the garland to greet the prophet."
She noted that though the production was the work of seasoned professionals as well as volunteers, no one involved was paid.
"When we first started out, some people said, You've got to have a celebrity name to draw people.' I said,No, we don't; we have a message to draw the people.'"
Attention to detail was remarkable, Sister Malan said. For example the lights carried by the dancers descending from the stands were contained in coconut shells for the Polynesians, pinatas for the Latin Americans, and so forth.
"Even the wildflowers given to the wives of the members of the First Presidency had been carefully planned and researched to include their favorite wildflowers," she noted.
The first performance, recorded on videotape, will be rebroadcast over KBYU-TV, Channel 11, in Provo, Utah, on Wednesday, Aug. 6, at 8:30 p.m. Stakes receiving the satellite transmisison of the program July 24-25 were allowed to make copies for meetinghouse libraries.