Castle Valley Pageant prepares for 31st year Pageant starts July 31, Aug. 1, 2, Aug. 5-9
The Castle Valley Pageant will be presented July 31, Aug. 1-2, and Aug. 5-9 at the pageant site on DesBeeDove Road in Castle Dale. Beginning at 6 p.m. and running until the pageant begins at 8:30 p.m., a Pioneer Village will be available for visitors to see first hand how life was for the pioneers. Prior to visiting the Pioneer Village and the Castle Valley Pageant, be sure to stop in at the Castle Dale rodeo grounds for a lamb fry dinner prepared by the Emery County youth city council members.
The Castle Valley Pageant is in its 31st year. The Castle Valley Pageant has been an annual tradition in Emery County dating back to 1978. Montell Seely is the man with a vision when it came to the pageant. He wrote a story to depict the early settlers to Emery County who came from the Sanpete Valley. The settlers were instructed to settle the Castle Valley by Brigham Young, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was the last order or directive he gave before passing away. Montell has a passion for bringing the stories of the pioneers to life. He wants to make their stories very real for the generations of today and those people yet to come. Part of preserving this story has been the presentation of the Castle Valley Pageant each year. The pageant grew from a two night production to eight nights.
The pageant has taken on a life of its own and for the 25th anniversary of the pageant, Montell and his wife Kathryn and other family members prepared a book of the history of the pageant along with stories from those who have been actively involved in the pageant over the years. Many actors have come and gone, but there are some who have been involved in the pageant for the past 30 years never missing a beat.
Montell had the idea for a pageant in the back of his mind since he was a missionary in the Central Atlantic States, he was assigned to labor on the Cherokee Indian Reservation in North Carolina. The Cherokee Indians produced a pageant to tell their story of how the army rounded up the Cherokee Indians and marched them all the way to Oklahoma. This tale of their journey became known as the "Trail of Tears."
Montell as a young missionary had the opportunity to see this pageant and it made an impression on him. He had long thought Emery County needed a pageant and wished someone would put one together. He never thought that someone was him, he wasn't the pageant writing type, just a farmer; not a writer.
But, things began to change, in 1977 the LDS church initiated what they called the Activities Committee. Carol Driggs was called to be the Cultural Arts Specialist. She asked Montell who was a first counselor in the Bishopric at the time, exactly what her job was to be. Montell said to her, "What this area needs is a pageant that will tell the story of the colonization of Castle Valley. One that will pay honor to the stalwart pioneers who settled this valley." Driggs answered, "If someone will write the script, I will certainly try to direct it."
After several attempts to get local writers involved, it came down to Montell writing the script or watching his idea fade away. So he along with Kathryn began the chore of writing the pageant. Montell didn't see himself as a writer and it was a time consuming laborious process. Creating dialogue for the characters and interaction between the characters took a lot of time. The key for Montell was using real stories for the script, things that happened to the people along their way into the Castle Valley; a baby being born along the way, a baby dying along the way, a reluctant wife; all became story lines for the script.
The story of Wink and Anna in the pageant is based on Montell's grandparents dilemma of whether to come to the Castle Valley, before or after their baby was born. In those days, if you were absent from a homestead for more than six months, you would forfeit your claim to the land and a squatter could take over. In the end, the trip is made with a midwife in tow and the baby is born along the way.
The story of Joe and Tilda was based on real settlers named Joseph and Matilda Curtis Boulden. Their baby passed away above Upper Joe's valley and was brought on into Castle Valley to be buried.
Montell based the story of the reluctant wife on two couples he knew where the husband was willing to come to Castle Valley, but the wife didn't want to leave the comforts of the Sanpete Valley which was already settled. Niels Peter Miller and his wife Ellen were one of these couples. Miller made his wife a dugout which was a cut above many at the time. Upon their arrival in the valley, Ellen said, "Has it now come to this that I have to live underground? This line is in the pageant script. Many of the reluctant wives came to love the Castle Valley, but some never did. Grandma Montell upon arriving in Emery County tells how that was the first time she ever swore, uttering, "Damn a man who would bring a woman to such a God-forsaken spot."
Montell thinks this shows the spirit of the woman, not afraid to speak her mind, filled with emotion. But, she didn't quit, she didn't go back and stood by her husband in the Castle Valley soil.
Another scene, Montell said had to be in the pageant was about water issues, water was and still is always a topic for debate.
When Montell finished the script, Driggs told him the story lacked romance and needed a love story. So the story of the courtship of Abe and Neva was added to the script. There were many single men who left Sanpete to come to the Castle Valley leaving sweethearts behind. Ken Driggs wrote the love song for Abe and Neva's scene.
Montell then set upon the task of finding the spot for the pageant to be held. It needed to be outdoors and have a theatre feel to it. He searched high and low, discarding several sites, when on a trip up the church mine road to Des-Bee-Dove. He found the spot. He got out of his pickup and walked up a hill, trudged through some cedars and there it was, laid out just as he imagined. He thought, 'This is the right place.' His soul was filled with joy as he scanned the site and knew it had been prepared for this purpose of bringing the story of the Castle Valley pioneers to life.
The site came to life with the pouring of a concrete pad for the stage and benches for seating. A dugout was constructed in 1978 by Wayne and Elaine Wilberg. A log cabin was donated in 1987 by Perry and Olive McArthur of Huntington.
Everything came together and the first production was held Aug. 11 and 12, 1978.
The pageant has evolved and changed through the years to what it has become today. Now it seems another change is in the works. The pageant went from a local production to being one of the church sponsored pageants similar to the Manti Pageant, Hill Cumorah and others.
Seely welcomes locals and out of town visitors to come and enjoy the pageant experience. The pageant will not run in 2009 and will be produced again in 2010 so don't miss this year's event.
New to the pageant this year is the starting time of 8:30 p.m., just before dark. This will allow long distance visitors to return home at an earlier hour. The pageant cast members will also mingle among the Pioneer Village visitors.