Crowds flock to Mormon Miracle Pageant
By James Tilson
MANTI—The Mormon Miracle Pageant, in its final season, is going out with a bang. Crowds have been bigger than any recent year, and it may be one of the best attended productions ever.
“I knew it would be this big, but it has been overwhelming,” said Miller’s Drive-Thru owner Travis Miller. “We’ve been having a hard time handling the volume. We’ve been ordering tons and tons of food to keep up with the demand, but the lines to get food have been going out the door.”
According to Pageant President Milt Olsen, the attendance figures for last week were 2,400 for Tuesday’s dress rehearsal, 5,600 for Wednesday’s dress rehearsal, 13,500 for Thursday, 20,000 for Friday and 15,000 for Saturday’s performance. That makes for a total of 56,500 for the first week.
However, Olsen was quick to point out those numbers are only estimates, and likely are lower than actual numbers. “There are so many people sitting in the areas beyond the streets around the sitting area,” he said. “I believe it’s because we have more chairs inside the seating area this year.”
But even with all the people coming to Pageant, there have been very few incidents reported to the police. Sanpete
County Sheriff Detective Derick Taysom pointed out only five or six calls to dispatch have originated from or near the Pageant grounds all of last week. And all of them were minor disturbances that did not result in criminal charges being filed.
“The sheriff deputies do a terrific job,” said Pageant director Denise Hagemeister. From her vantage point on Temple Hill, she can see the crowds filing up the seating area. “They are way more people than usual,” she said. “But it’s pretty great that so many people can come here, and are well-organized and then can leave so quickly.”
Carrie Cox, owner of Fred’s Sports Grill, echoes Hagemeister’s sentiments. “The sheriff’s office does a fantastic job handling so many people,” she said. While Cox stated she completely supports the Church’s decision to no longer support outdoor Pageants, she expressed her opinion on why the Church made its decision: “I understand that it’s an increased safety risk, with the increase in shooting incidents. Large groups are just bigger targets now.”
Of course, such large crowds have had a huge impact on local businesses. “The crowds are absolutely insane,” said Chris McIff, manager at the Manti House Inn. “The crowds have exceeded our expectations. This last weekend was triple what we did last year.” The Manti House also runs a wood-fired pizza food truck outside their inn during the Pageant. “We’ve sold out [pizzas] every single night,” he said. “We sold out by 8:15 the first two nights, and then got more supplies so we could last until 9:30 on Saturday. We’re getting a lot more supplies for this coming week.”
Travis Whitlock at Top Stop said they have also reached record sales. “We were real close to breaking single day sales on Saturday. One night we had 1,100 sales transactions.”
Dirk’s Farmhouse is also seeing huge crowds. Mary Morgan, the kitchen manager, said, “Its’ definitely more stressful. It’s been one and half times our normal business, and it’s hard to keep up. But our customers have been really patient.”
Even though Dirk’s is locally known for its prime rib special, that does not tend to get as many orders during the Pageant. “We have so many large Mormon families, and they order the hamburger and French fry special,” Morgan
said. “I’ve never seen so many hamburgers go out the door!”
Arizona Mickelsen, the night manager at Dirk’s, said they knew the crush was coming as early as last February, when the local hotels were becoming fully booked for the Pageant. So far, they have not ran out of supplies very often. But the second week is still coming. “The second week is always crazier,” Mickelsen said.
Still, it seems the large crowds are mostly going to the food-serving establishments in town, and other local businesses may not be getting as much business.
“I really don’t get a jump in business from the Pageant,” said John Jensen of Jensen’s Department Store. “People don’t walk up here for shopping, they tend to go over to the turkey dinners, and then go to the Pageant.”
Jensen said he thinks it is a recent trend due to modern conveniences. “People can leave Salt Lake in modern cars at 6 p.m., and get here in time to see the Pageant.”
However, he will not change one of his Pageant traditions. “I will always do the sidewalk sale,” he said.
Cox appreciates the Pageant, and all the customers that come to Manti from out of the county. “We have people that come here every year,” she said. “Some of our return customers are third generation. They came here as a child, then came back as parents and now are coming here with their grandchildren.”
Cox knows the loss of the Pageant will take some adjustments from local businesses, but she is confident her business and others will still do well. “We would like to see the city pick up new events to make up for the Pageant,” she said. “We are looking forward to the new ballfields bringing in new people. But our business has increased every year I’ve owned it. I think we will continue to do well.”