Behind the scenes: Manti Pageant’s 550-member cast

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    By JERRY GOWEN

    Although some 145,000 people enjoyed this year’s Manti Pageant, June 19 through June 28, many may be unaware of pageant statistics and just what happens behind the scenes.

    Jay Cluff, pageant president, said the Manti Pageant is the largest nighttime pageant in the United States and second largest overall, only to Arkansas’ Passion Pageant in total size.

    “We were delighted with the attendance this year, especially with the change in having the pageant in June,” Cluff said. “They will be better prepared next year because of the experience this year.”

    Cluff said cast members for the pageant come from all over the world.

    “There were 550 total cast members with 80 percent of them being youth,” Cluff said. “All of this is on a complete volunteer basis. The total was over 1000 with supporting cast included.”

    Ivo Peterson, a member of the pageant presidency, said tryouts occurred on May 14-15 and leads began their rehearsals on May 20. The general cast started their rehearsals on June 3 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. each night.

    “The costumes were begun in January this year,” Peterson said. “The first of March they actually started sewing. We found Boy Scout Troops that helped us with the costuming. Many of the new Lamanite costumes had braiding work done by these boys.”

    Cluff said the pageant also serves as a missionary tool for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    The mission president in charge of the Manti area allowed 2 zones of missionaries to constantly canvass the crowd, Cluff said. Over 400 referrals were obtained from this year’s pageant.

    Friday’s performance of the pageant yielded 20,000 people in attendance, with 3,000 of those being non-members.

    “We were absolutely delighted with the attendance that we had this year,” Peterson said. “It was so close to last year’s attendance and that was really good.”

    Cluff said this year’s pageant preparation was filled with challenges, with everything eventually falling into place.

    “Everyone met the challenge of the new dates, the new lighting, the new sound system and costumes,” Cluff said. “Things just seemed to fall into place. ‘Faith in Every Footstep’ (the Sesquicentennial theme) is kind of what happened with us. The theme just added to the pageant.”

    Cluff said pageant producers were very pleased at the number of first time attendees. The weather was also very cooperative.

    One of the highlights of the pageant, according to Cluff, is the enjoyment it provides to cast members and attendees.

    “This is a great tool for strengthening the youth,” Cluff said. “They get to live the scriptures.” Cast members are asked to live the standards of the gospel like missionaries while participating in the pageant, Cluff said.

    Next year’s Manti Pageant will be held June 17-20 and June 23-27.

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