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On our front page this week

  • Mormon Handcart Pageant exceeds expectation--committee plans for future productions

By Myrna Trauntvein
Times-News Correspondent

Yes, it's correc--dreams really do come true.

Brent Boswell and his parents, Dixie and Don Lynn Boswell, dreamed that there could be a successful presentation of the Mormon Handcart Pageant in Nephi.

They set about writing it, directing it, getting volunteers for it, and getting support. They organized a handcart committee and called for assistance from all who were dream-builders.

Somehow, they managed it all.

Friday, at the first annual Mormon Handcart Pageant in Nephi, there were 2,300 people on hand to view the first night, Aug. 30, of the first pageant. On the second night, Aug. 31, at the county fairgrounds arena at dusk there were 3,200 people in the stands.

"We were pleased with the success this year," said Boswell. "We hope it continues to grow as the word spreads."

He said there were visitors from as far away as Alaska and one of the families, progeny of one who was featured in the pageant, brought 50 family members who were attending a family reunion to the pageant.

"We had a granddaughter, who was in her late 90s, attend on Saturday," he said. "It is not unusual to meet decedents who are great- or great-great-grandchildren but to have the granddaughter of one of the handcart pioneers is quite unusual."

David Leavitt, county attorney, was one of those who participated in the pageant as the leader of the Martin handcart company.

"It was a great honor for me to be part of this production," he said.

The pageant tells of the courage and fortitude of the Martin and Willie handcart companies who were caught without proper supplies on the cold plains in early snow.

Theirs were tales of courage and inspiration as they made their way to Utah finally to be rescued by those sent back to save them by President Brigham Young. Young had not known of the plight until two returning missionaries made it to Salt Lake City and informed him.

The production was well-staged using all of the arena for many of the scenes. One of those, popular with the audience, was a pioneer dance, after camp was made in the evening.

The audience clapped, in time with the music, and generally seemed to get into the swing of the party.

The light moment, however, was followed by the heroic vignettes of moments that tugged at the heart-strings as young children died, older people bid good-bye to family members, and a young engaged couple was parted when the man died because he froze to death following a day carrying others across a frigid river.

The parting of the young couple featured a love-song, sung by the woman pioneer, on parting with her fiance. The song was written by a local woman, Rachel Goates.

All was professionally accomplished and the sound pre-recorded for just the right amplitude for the moment.

"Under spotlight, this outdoor, night-time event featured moments of human greatness exemplified by those tremendous Latter-day Saints who were in these handcart companies and by those who came to their rescue," said Boswell.

"The sesquicentennial of the handcart rescue will be in 2006, and we plan to still be producing the pageant at that time."

Of course, some special activities will be planned for that event.

This was the first year of the pageant and the first production of what organizers plan as an annual event.

In addition to the pageant, written from information taken from the journals of Utah Handcart Pioneers, each day at the fairgrounds there was a craft fair, musical entertainment, historic vignettes and a dinner.

Those events ended at dusk when spectators entered the east side of the arena for the production.

The pageant is being presented in remembrance of the rescue of the Martin and Willie Handcart Companies.

Boswell said the rescue had special meaning for residents of the area because, after their arrival into the Salt lake Valley, some of those handcart pioneers were actually sent by Brigham Young to help settle Nephi and the surrounding communities.

Boswell said credit should also go, not only to volunteers on stage, but to all those who helped behind the scenes. Recently, $50,000 worth of lights were donated to the pageant and David Mosteller, a local electrician, became the head electrician over lighting.

In addition, Bob Lowe, wagon master for the sesquicentennial re enactment of the 1847 Mormon pioneer trek, moved to Mona and agreed to serve as wagon master for the pageant.