Over the mountain they came

First came Wink and Anna. Then followed John and Clara. Joe and Tilda were close behind. Over the mountain they came - a wagon here, a wagon there - called by Brigham Young to settle the arid Castle Valley.

"Curse the man who would bring a woman to such country," said one of the women after setting eyes for the first time on her new home, a dugout hewn out of a mountain.The Castle Valley Pageant, the story of the early settlers leaving their comfortable homes in Utah's Sanpete County to tame a desolate new land, is a saga that members in the area have now told for 20 years.

"The pageant reminds us and keeps us aware, of our heritage," said Sam Singleton, third-year president of the pageant. "We have great appreciation of our ancestors. Imagine coming here with nothing."

Set in a natural amphitheater high in the hillside overlooking the valley, the pageant opens with horse-drawn wagons creeping down the mountainside, signifying the migration of members to their new homes in Emery County. The trials and tribulations of the early settlers are recreated in vignettes set around the hillside.

In one setting with a 100-year-old cabin dug into the side of the mountain, Ellen Miller asks, "Has it now come to this, that I have to live under the ground?" In another setting, where the purposes of temples are explained, two workers build a wooden box to bury a baby. In still another setting with tepees, significant scriptures in the Book of Mormon are related to the Native Americans.

Also unique to this pageant is the use of livestock.

"There are so many animals," said Montell Seely, author of the original script in 1978. "Of the 22 scenes in the pageant, 14 have live animals. Some people keep a team of horses just for the pageant."

An estimated 25,000 people attended the pageant during its eight performances this year, including visitors from Israel, Germany and Puerto Rico.

"A teary-eyed man came up to me after the performance and said, `Just wonderful,' " said cast member Balinda Bair.

"A mother whose son was undecided about serving a mission told me the other evening that her son had decided to go on a mission after viewing the pageant," said Brother Singleton.

"It's all about emotions," Brother Singleton continued, "the joy of conquering struggles, the joy of obedience, the joy of the gospel."

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