Waiting for the Hill Cumorah Pageant in Palmyra is like waiting for Christmas. It is anticipated and talked about for months before it arrives. As the time draws near for the pageant to take place there is a sense of frenzied excitement. We are as excited as everyone else, espcially since we have never seen the pageant before. This year the pageant will be held on July 9,10 and 13-17.
In just 8 more days it will be time for the dress rehersal and then the official pageant begins! The Hill Cumorah Pageant is the largest ourdoor theater presentation in the United States. The storyline of the pageant includes 10 scenes from the Bible and the Book of Mormon and a cast of over 700 actors and actresses of all ages. These cast members come from all over the United States and pay their own expenses while they are here in Palmyra; for a little over two weeks. Their expenses include, travel, food, lodging, etc.
Our friends from the Rochester 2nd Ward, the Schwendimans, play important roles in the success of the Pageant. President Schwendiman is the Pageant President and has served in this capcity for 4 years. Sister Schwendimen is in charge of making sure the cast of over 700 and the support personnel are fed each day. (That makes feeding Young Women at camp seem easy!)
About two weeks ago we saw the first visible signs on the Hill Cumorah that the pageant is coming. A large crane was brought in and eight large light poles were installed on both sides of the Hill Cumorah that will eventually become the stage.
In the meantime, all of the Site Missionaries are being trained to handle the large groups of tours that are beginning to arrive. This is one of three bus tours that arrived while we were working at the Smith Farm last week. When we have this many tourists arrive at once we have learned to modify our tours to accomodate large group numbers. Things worked out very well and we thought everyone had a very good experience!
Our weekly Site Meetings are now devoted to helping the missionaries become prepared for the large crowds that will arrive at our sites during the Hill Cumorah Pageant. Below, one of our veteran missionaries, Elder Hamblin, instructs a small group of missionaries how to work at the Peter Whitmer Visitors' Center during pageant and when other large groups arrive during the summer.
Last week the Pageant work crew arrived. This volunteer crew consists of 22 young men ages 17 - 19 who are first year crew members. Another 4 crew members are former missionaries and also returning crew members that serve as team leaders. Additionally, there are a few adult leaders that return each year to supervise the crew. These young men are divided into missionary companionships and have devotionals each morning before going to work setting up for the pageant. Familes of pageant support personnel have also started arriving and helping with things like painting props (below).
The entire cast is divided into cast teams. Each cast team will meet throughout the day when not rehearsing. They meet under these colorful tents for instruction, recreation, and relaxation. These teams will also board buses and visit the sites, do community sevice projects, attend the temple,and receive training on how to greet and welcome the audience each evening before the pageant begins. Elder Watts is standing at the podium in the Study Shelter where the Missionary Cast Trainers will instruct the cast. We have been working with 6 young Sister Missionaries for the past 10 weeks to prepare them to train the cast on how to welcome and interact with the audience prior to each performance.
Zions Camp is where many of the volunteers that lead pageant committees stay the week prior to and during pageant. This would include people like the pageant presidency, those in charge of security, medical care, food, costumes, etc. A small number of cast members will stay here too. Most cast members stay in nearby motels, campgrounds, or college dormitories.
The work crew is making good progress in assembling the giant stage on the hill. We took a break from cast training practice yesterday and went out to Hill Cumorah with our cast training missionaries. It sure got us all excited!
Coming next week: More behind the scenes of the Hill Cumorah Pageant!