Heritage celebratedin the Spectacular

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    By DENISE PALMER

    Thousands of participants in the Sesquicentennial Spectacular worked together to celebrate our pioneer heritage.

    Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, chair of the Spectacular, said a lot of hard work and cooperation made the production possible.

    “Just as the pioneers did not arrive in these valleys without an immense amount of cooperation and care for one another, we would not have this marvelous show tonight without the work and sacrifice of this entire cast and production team,” he said in his welcoming remarks.

    Participants got involved in many different ways. Rick Neal, a junior from Pensacola, Fla., majoring in physical education, played the role of a stripling warrior.

    “They came to our ward and asked us about a month ago. They were really looking for people who were authentic. For example, everyone that’s a stripling warrior is an actual descendant — they’re all Lamanites. Except for myself, I’m African American, and one other African American,” he said.

    Regina Simons came from Huntington, Calif., to participate in the Native-American scene with her family.

    “My dad teaches at Weber State University and is head of the multi-cultural center, so they were in touch with him,” she said.

    Raylene Anderson is a BYU Young Ambassador Alumna from Sandy. She said she was invited months ago to participate.

    “They contacted us through the mail with a letter inviting us. It was probably about five months ago when they invited us to do this. We needed to commit back then,” she said.

    Spectators didn’t know exactly what to expect, and even the participants didn’t know all the surprises that would be a part of the Spectacular.

    “We just kind of heard through the grapevine that the missionaries might be coming in. They said there would be a few surprises, and that one of them would be the missionaries. I don’t even know all the surprises. We’re just rolling with it,” Anderson said.

    Julie Jarman, from Fullerton, Calif., and a member of the Mormon Youth Chorus, said she knew only about her own part until this week.

    “Before Tuesday we hardly knew anything. The songs we sang were recorded a month ago, so we knew that. But we had no idea what else was going on. Even tonight there was more fireworks than they had at our dress rehearsal,” she said.

    Jarman said she was excited to see the thousands of missionaries march into the stadium.

    “They weren’t here yesterday. The whole choir stood up and started clapping. We just stayed standing. Wasn’t that neat?” she said.

    Participants in the Spectacular felt blessed for their opportunity to be involved in something so big.

    “It’s wonderful. I feel it’s a great honor. I really enjoy that they’re presenting the wonderful pioneers because they mean so much to me and I have pioneer ancestors,” Anderson said.

    “But I also think it’s great to represent the modern pioneers and the people from all over the world that sacrifice so much for the gospel. I think it’s really good — it represents those in the past, those in the present, and those in the future,” she said.

    “It was awesome, incredible. Even during the practices yesterday the spirit was really strong. It was amazing. We do a lot of performances on our own, but just to be a part of this is a lot different. There’s a lot more feeling behind it because of our pioneer heritage,” she said.

    Neal said his part as a stripling warrior is minor, but he doesn’t think any of the participants play a small part.

    “It makes me feel good. I know this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I know that I have an opportunity, just by the small part that I’m playing, to reach millions of people,” he said.

    “My role as a stripling warrior, as minor as it is, I think it adds to a very big and significant whole. I’m taking my part very seriously. I’m just excited to be here. I feel very blessed and fortunate,” Neal said.

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