Castle Valley Pageant depicts struggles, faith of pioneers

Record crowds witnessed the 14th season of the Castle Valley Pageant, which concluded here Aug. 3 after four productions.

Written by Montell Seely and directed by Henning Olsen, the pageant is produced by the Castle Dale Region. This year the cast included 153 people, with another 308 serving on the production staff.The pageant portrays the trials, triumphs and tragedies of settlers in eastern Utah's Castle Valley, who were called by Brigham Young in 1877 to colonize what is now scenic Emery County.

Live animals are used in more than half the pageant scenes, staged annually at a mountain ampitheather on a hill overlooking the valley. This year there were three covered wagons, a surrey, buckboard and spring wagon each pulled by a team of horses, plus five saddle horses, a milk cow and several sheep. Using the animals in such a rugged setting makes the story more realistic, Seely said.

One touching scene occurs when the audience views covered wagons, about a half mile away, wending 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, said Seely.

The pageant includes an original musical score, with some portions pre-recorded by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

New additions to this year's production included the ringing of a historic bell, mounted on a tower, that called the early settlers to gatherings in the town square; a salute to America's armed forces and the flag, recognizing pageant patrons who have served in the military.

Besides the production itself, pageant activities include a lamb fry and a pioneer village, where early skills and arts are demonstrated and exhibited each evening before the pageant. Patrons view demonstrations of horse shoeing, sheep shearing, cow milking and see close-up the skills of a blacksmith and wheelwright demonstrated. They are allowed to walk through the village and touch the animals and buildings while watching stew cooking over the fireplace.