Cumorah pageant in 65th year

PALMYRA, N.Y. — The annual Hill Cumorah Pageant, "America's Witness for Christ," will open its 65th year with continuing innovations to enthrall the thousands expected to attend.

The pageant will be presented July 5-6, and 9-13.

Typically, a cast of 650 presents the pageant to about 9,000 visitors nightly from across the United States and Canada. It is staged on the side of the Hill Cumorah, a few miles from Palmyra. Featured will be some of the best special effects available. The audience will experience a 10-level stage production, 50-foot-high light towers, brilliant costumes and Hollywood-like special effects. A Hollywood production team designed the special effects, including waterfalls, water screens, volcanoes, fireballs and explosions with sound effects taken from the movie "Earthquake."

An estimated 500,000 watts of electricity are required to power each performance. In addition, pageant organizers must obtain clearance from U.S. aviation authorities to execute several of the lighting and flaming effects.

"This year's pageant is absolutely breathtaking and an experience for all ages," said Ray Crystal, Hill Cumorah Pageant director. "The visual and auditory effects will have the audience on the edge of its seat. Words can't describe what you will see."

Because of safety concerns, the pyrotechnics will be eliminated this year, said Brother Crystal. "We don't have all safeguards the state requires, so we trying to re-create the same effects with lights and sound."

Roger Sorensen, artistic director and counselor in the pageant's presidency, said that the pageant is expected to be just as spectacular. "We will be using more fire. Water cannons created some new looks last year." He said gasses and fire, fireballs and banks of smoke will be used to create the sense of the earth opening up, and smoke and fire coming out.

He expects more visitors because of the Nauvoo Illinois Temple dedication. "It makes a difference in the performance and in the spirit of the audience," he said. "Many cast members will attend the dedication and will bring the spirit of the dedication to the hill.

"The pageant is a wonderful experience for members of the Church who come both as audience and participants to have a very personal encounter with the text of the Book of Mormon and characters and prophets and people who are in that arena, a remarkable experience. I am so glad to be a part of it."