Usual huge crowds enjoy Manti pageant

Stereophonic sound and some new scenery and costuming have enhanced this year's edition of "Mormon Miracle," the annual pageant staged on the Manti Temple hill.

Now 23 years old, the pageant played July 13-15 and 18-22, under a new director, Ronald D. Hall, principal of the Manti LDS Seminary. Hall holds a master's degree in cinematic arts from BYU. He succeeded director Macksene S. Rux, who retired last year after 20 years of service."Attendance has been very good," general manager R. Morgan Dyreng reported July 17, the Monday after the pageant's first weekend. "We had 12,000 the first night, about 24,000 on Friday and about 14,000 on Saturday. That's pretty typical. We usually have our largest crowds the second week." Last year, the pageant set a total attendance record of 147,000, he noted.

The pageant is a high point of the year for this small, southern Utah town.

"It just about strains Manti at the seams," Dyreng commented. "The whole town is involved in some kind of service rendered toward the pageant. A little over 600 people are involved in the cast, and just over 600 are involved in support services for the pageant; that is, traffic control, ushering, stage people, and all the many individuals who have to work to make it function."

To help accommodate visitors, some of the wards in Manti prepare and sell dinners with barbecued turkey, the fowl being one of the area's main products.

As always, admission to the pageant this year was free. Organizers work from a limited budget provided by the Church, supplemented by sales of a printed souvenir program.

Stakes in the Manti Utah Region offer complimentary copies of the Book of Mormon to non-members who attend. Dyreng acknowledged many people have joined the Church after seeing the pageant, although it is difficult to keep track of the ones who do because they come from far-flung areas.

"For instance," he said, "we got a call the other day from some people in Spain who indicated they would be coming in a party of 20 people with four members and 16 non-members."

Many groups attending youth conferences at BYU and nearby Snow College take the opportunity to see the pageant, he added.

He said the pageant touches many people and gives them an understanding of the beginnings of the Church, the Book of Mormon, and the sacrifices made by the pioneers and the settlers of Sanpete County, where Manti is located.