The trials, triumphs and tragedies of settlers in Castle Valley involve more than just those families who were called by Brigham Young in 1877 to colonize what is now scenic Emery County.
The experiences of the 19th century homesteaders - portrayed in the Castle Valley Pageant in eastern Utah- belong to everyone with a pioneer ancestor, said Montell Seely, writer of the production, which recently completed its 13th year.Thousands of people attended the pageant August 1-4, and about 300 local residents participated in the production, which is sponsored by the Church.
Shawn Bradley, of high school basketball fame, became a star of another sort by portraying Samuel the Lamanite in the pageant. (The 7-ft.-5 prep All-America basketball player from Emery County High School will attend BYU this fall.)
While the pageant focuses on the earlier settlers, it also includes flashbacks to scenes from the Book of Mormon.
Live animals are used in more than half the scenes during the pageant, which is staged annually on a hill overlooking the valley. Using the animals in such a rugged setting makes the story more realistic, according to Seely.
One touching scene occurs when the audience views covered wagons, about a half mile away, as they wend their way along a cedar-dotted ridge.
The scene is an expression of the hardships the settlers faced, yet it shows clearly the gratitude of those early saints.
Directed by Henning Olsen, the pageant includes an original musical score with some portions pre-recorded by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Sponsored by the Castle Dale Region, pageant activities include a lamb fry and a pioneer village where early skills and arts are demonstrated and exhibited each evening before the pageant.