Widgets Magazine

Jun 5, 2011

Pageant and Palisade

As you all know, I grew up in a small town in central Utah. When I was 2 years old, somebody decided that we needed to present a pageant (not a beauty pageant, but a large live play) that explained our Mormon faith. My parents were excited about this opportunity and promptly signed up our family to participate. The girls all got bonnets and long dresses and we walked at the appropriate time across the fairgrounds to represent the trek of the pioneers. I don’t actually remember any of this, but my mom told me about it many times and showed me the bonnets that she kept as remembrances. The pageant had about 2000 people attend the first year and it grew and grew and grew. For two weeks every July, the Mormon Miracle pageant brought thousands of visitors into our tiny towns.

When I was about 12, I had a second opportunity to be part of this production. By then they had moved it to the grounds of the Manti Temple. I was part of the heavenly choir along with the rest of our Young Women group. We wore white dresses with tinsel (no wings because we don’t believe in wings). I can still perform the actions for that song. After my second year as an angel, I graduated to the ranks of a Nephite. These dances were much harder and required weekly practices that began after auditions the first week of May. The costumes were fun and elaborate and reused every year.
Christ among the Nephites

The year I was 15 I was chosen to be a Lamanite, but not a dancer. I stood on the platform. Since Lamanites are the ancestors of today’s American Indians, I was required to be covered in a coppery shade of body paint and have my hair dyed temporarily black each night. This paint was messy and stained the shower. Several years earlier, my older brother wore his hair mostly black all summer when the dye they used wouldn’t wash out of his blonde curls. Our part in the pageant was during the first half, so we were allowed to leave the staging area on a school bus and return to the high school to change.

The years I was an angel or a Nephite, we would walk the couple of blocks to where the crowds were gathered to watch the pageant and chase boys. When I was a Lamanite, we had to find a place to wash off. We were not allowed to mingle with the masses in our war paint. So we would all pile into the back of somebody’s pickup and head to one of the nearby lakes. Gunnison Reservoir was a favorite swimming hole because it was dirty and loaded with catfish. No one minded if we had our cleaning party there. (Remember, this was thirty + years ago. The Water Quality people would be all over us now…I don’t know what they currently do.) The other spot we liked to go to wash off was Palisade Lake in Sterling.

One night a bunch of us headed up there. It had been a difficult performance. The guy who was playing Samuel the Lamanite was supposed to stand on a wall and preach to the people. But he had worked an 18-hour shift the night before and when his cue came, he was snoozing on the ground behind the wall. The spotlights hit the wall, but nothing roused him. The Nephites threw their rocks and chased nobody…He was in our group and rather upset as you can imagine. So when we got to Palisade, he wanted to do something idiotic. He wanted to swim across the lake and back.
The lake is 66 acres with an average depth of 18 feet.

He was about 18 and cute, and I was the only taker. I had been on a swim team as a child and thought I could do anything. Looking back, it’s amazing I even survived. This guy was a trained lifeguard and a much stronger swimmer than I was so I guess that was some consolation, maybe he could have saved me. I was in the pageant all through my teenage years until I was married. I even auditioned for the lead role, but was disqualified because I was only 17 and they required an 18-year-old. The pageant now plays for over a hundred thousand people each year. I looked up the dates for you just in case you are driving through Manti and you want to stop. This year it is June 16 – 18 and 21 – 25. It’s all free and if you’re interested, it’s a great place to pick up guys…but don’t let them take you to the lake. You might just have to swim for it.

*Editor's Note: If you decide to put this on your Summer list and attend the pageant please leave us a comment about your experience.  We'd love to hear what you enjoyed.*


Prima Donna said...

Ive always wanted to go to the pagent but i never have :( I know in the you tube video on there it talks about plaves to go in Sanpete valley what ever you do dont go on sky line drive unless you have a 4 weeler thats a story for anopther time though. (you better make that a blog mom if we havent done it yet...)

Grumpy Grateful Mom said...

I've been to the pageant, but it's been--awhile! It was so fun to read your experiences with it. I'm sure the performance where Samuel was missing was memorable! I'm glad you survived your lake swim.

M-Cat said...

Oh my gosh! I have heard the story about the year of the Sleeping Samuel the Lamanite from the Madsen's for years! Both Kerri and Scott were in the pageant that year!

What a small world.....

Mom of 12 said...

Prima Donna, you have seen the pageant even if you don't remember it! You know, I've been shaking my brains all day trying to remember the name of the Sleeping Samuel (I'm sure he doesn't want me to remember), but now that I've thought about it long enough, I think he was just back from his mission, so that would have made him 21...a little too old for my 15-year-old self. But it doesn't hurt to try!


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