Pageant passes into history with 153,500 attendance
By James Tilson
MANTI—The 53rd and last performance of the Manti Mormon Miracle Pageant went off with a bang, drawing about double the crowds of last year, and garnering the appreciation of all those involved.
According to Pageant crowd counters, the Pageant run drew 153,500 visitors, including at least 30,000 on the biggest night, Friday June 21.
Milton Olsen, Pageant president, was struck by how well the production went considering how many more people came to Manti this year. “The Pageant went amazingly well,” he said.
Olsen remembered one instance in particular, where even the elements could not derail the experience of cast,
crew and audience.
“On Thursday night [June 20], of course, we had the bad weather and light rain throughout the performance. Lots of people brought umbrellas to try to stay dry. However, once the performance began, no one had their umbrellas out, and no one left the show,” he said.
Kent Barton, Manti city administrator, who was in charge of the turkey dinners served at the Utah National Guard Armory, expressed satisfaction at how well the city was able to deal with the influx of visitors. “We were very busy this
year,” Barton said. “We served 12,763 dinners this year, as compared to the average of 6,592 over the last two years.”
Barton explained how volunteers coped with increased crowds. “We made adjustments in how we served the people this year that helped a lot. For example, we served bottled water this year instead of ice water in cups. Also, we gave the diners disposable utensil packets instead of silverware settings at the tables.”
Both Olsen and Barton remarked on how everyone volunteering for the Pageant seemed to make the extra effort this year to make sure everything smoothly.
“The cast all did so well,” Olsen said. “They were all so cooperative, even though with so many more cast members, it was a tougher production. I think maybe they were trying a little harder because it was the last Pageant.”
Barton agreed. “Because of the size of the cast [which was the largest ever], it was harder to find enough volunteers for all the other things going on in Manti. But even so, all the positions were filled, and everyone worked together really well.”
Barton remarked on an impression he took away from this year’s Pageant. “I was helping every night at the Pageant dinner. On Saturday night, after I had been helping put things away, my wife called me to meet her and our kids at the Pageant. After we were walking home, I had a somber moment where I realized I had seen the very first Pageant, and the last one, too.”
Olsen remembered a similar feeling. “After the Pageant ended, we had our crew get together and start putting away the chairs and the scenery. I got a feeling like the old armies that would burn their ships upon landing on a new continent. ‘We can’t go back anymore. It’s all gone.’”
Olsen and Barton also wanted to make sure the community knew how much the organizers appreciated all the people who came together to make the Pageant happen, this year and every year.
“I want to send out a big thank you to our community,” said Olsen. “I have always been so impressed by how it seems that someone will see a need, fill it, and then go about their business. I think in time, we may miss the coming together (that) the Pageant represented.”
“What a wonderful thing for our community,” Barton remarked. “…and I wonder how much we’ll miss it—the visitors, the service, the city benefited in many ways. “I want to share the city’s overwhelming thanks to everyone connected to the Pageant who did their part in welcoming our visitors. That doesn’t happen without a lot of effort.”