Seven days before he died in August 1877, President Brigham Young called for 50 families from Sanpete Stake to settle this eastern Utah territory. Their story is related in the Castle Valley Pageant, which this year marked its 12th consecutive season.
The drama is staged in a pristine, natural amphitheater on a cedar-covered bench about seven miles northwest of Castle Dale.Sponsored by the Castle Dale Utah Region, and directed this year by Henning Olsen, the four-day pageant opened Aug. 2 and ends Aug. 5.
"It is the perfect setting for a pioneer pageant," commented Montell Seely, who created the pageant and wrote the script. "It is isolated from modern civilization. There are no nearby freeways, railroad tracks, airports or subdivisions. Green grass, water lines and power lines are unheard of there."
Part of the pageant's uniqueness is its use of live animals, Seely said. "The folks here claim that it's the most realistic pioneer pageant in the world, and they invite people to visit the area and see for themselves. At least half of the scenes make use of horses, covered wagons, and a milk cow.
"Those who sit in the audience – on a hillside – are treated to a view of the covered wagons, about one-half mile away as they wind their way along a cedar-covered ridge. This scene evokes a lump in the throat of the toughest old sheepherder."
The pageant itself is free. Admission is charged for a lamb fry, complete with scones and honey butter, at the Castle Dale City Park.
A pioneer village is set up in the park where early skills and arts are exhibited and demonstrated.
Seely said the pageant grows each year in popularity and that many people drive from the populous Wasatch Front to see the pageant. He said the story belongs to everyone with a pioneer ancestor.
"Attending the pageant is an emotional and spiritual experience," he reported. "Some of the pioneers willingly accepted their call; others were hesitant. Babies were born, young people fell in love and got married, and loved ones died."
He said the pageant's unofficial slogan is "If you don't laugh, we'll buy your gas to get here, and if you don't choke up, we'll buy your gas to get home."