The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced on April 30 the cancellation of the 2020 Hill Cumorah Pageant due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The pageant was originally scheduled to end this year, but the Church says the final season will be postponed until 2021.
In October 2018, the Church announced large productions, including pageants, were discouraged. Decisions were later announced regarding the fate of the productions: The Nauvoo, Mesa and British Pageants were to continue; the Castle Valley and Clarkston pageants were to discontinue; and the Manti Pageant and the Hill Cumorah Pageant were to end in 2019 and 2020, respectively.
Despite the cancellation of this year’s pageant, Hill Cumorah Pageant President Neil Pitts said both he and the town of Palmyra are happy to have another season in 2021.
“We’re really pleased,” he said. “2020 was supposed to be the end of the pageant and we’re really pleased that they’ve given us another year and moved it to 2021, as is the town of Palmyra.”
According to its website, the Hill Cumorah Pageant, which began in 1937, is “America’s oldest and largest outdoor theatrical production.”
The pageant is free and includes nine evening performances featuring a volunteer cast of hundreds of people. The performances are presented on the hillside next to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Visitors’ Centers in Manchester, New York.
Pitts, who has been involved with the pageant for over 20 years, said this year would have been the 83rd year of the pageant, and they already had a few bands selected to play before the performances began in honor of the 200th anniversary of the prophet Joseph Smith’s First Vision.
Though Pitts and his crew had been planning for this year’s pageant for a long while — they work year-round — and will have to alter some things, Pitts said they hadn’t yet ordered the T-shirts for all the 850 cast members.
“We’re in pretty good shape because we recognized that there was a lot going on in the world,” he said. “We didn’t want to put ourselves in a position where we had a lot of goods that we’d have to return.”
Pitts said they are planning on using the same cast originally selected for the 2020 pageant for the 2021 pageant, though he acknowledged things might change between now and then, like people returning from or going out on missions. “There may be a lot of changes to the cast, but we’re ready for that,” he said.
The final season of the Hill Cumorah Pageant will be held on July 8-10 and July 13-17, 2021.
“There are a lot of people that were really guessing that it wouldn’t go forward just because of all the restrictions that are taking place this year,” Pitts said. “We have a lot of happy people to know that we wouldn’t end on a cancellation — that we would end with a real pageant.”