By Julie Johansen
The Castle Valley Pageant debuted in 1978. It began when Carol Ann Driggs, cultural arts specialist for Castle Dale LDS 2nd Ward, told Montell Seely, then counselor in the bishopric, “What this area needs is a pageant that tells the story of the colonization of Castle Valley.” Seely and Driggs looked for someone to write the script but were turned down.
“The moment of truth had arrived and I didn’t want my dream to die so I said I would try,” Seely, the author, wrote. He had full support of his wife, Kathryn. The duo made a good team. He would write the dialogue and she would then type it, making spelling, punctuation and grammatical corrections as she went.
Seely wanted the pageant to be the actual Castle Valley history, so factual stories were used with events that truly happened. The major difference between fact and fiction in the stories are the names having been changed. There are four main stories; a baby being born on the way over from Sanpete valley, a baby dying on the journey, a husband who wanted to come but his wife didn’t, and, of course, a love story.
Once they had the script that evolved line by line, the next step was to find somewhere to present the pageant. The natural place, at least to the author, was an outdoor setting. Seely went searching for a high bench where the audience could sit with a view of the valley and a big enough space at the foot of the hill where the scenes could be staged and a wagon road could be built. He found that place on the Des Bee Dove Road about seven miles from Castle Dale. This site was on a state-owned section of property, so permission was obtained from the state of Utah.
The first recording was on a reel-to-reel recording system, which spliced together a sub master tape that was then recorded on a master tape. Once sound, electrical power and lighting were secured at the site, the first pageant was performed on August 11 and 12, 1978. The second year it was sponsored by the Castle Dale LDS Stake. It was changed from two acts to one and from about three hours to 90 minutes. In 1990, the Castle Valley Pageant became an official LDS production. This change was a dream come true. With this change, funding, lights, electrical power and sound were now available from LDS Church Headquarters.
There have been changes over the years, but much of the original script and recording remain the same. In 2008, LDS Church Headquarters announced that the Castle Valley Pageant would only be held every other year, on even years, and would share this time slot with The Martin Harris Pageant in Hyrum, Utah on the odd years. This same year, an accident on a mock pioneer trek from Sanpete to Castle Valley claimed the life of author Seely.
This year, the pageant will be performed on July 28, 29 and 30 as well as August 2-6. It begins at dusk, approximately 9 p.m. and once again large crowds are expected. It is preceded each night with a Pioneer Village that is audience interactive.