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Missouri's turbulent frontier days emerged from the pages of history and came to life as family entertainment when the Church's annual outdoor pageant opened here.

"A Frontier Story, 1833," was enacted for the sixth year, and organizers said the historical drama was more exciting and authentic than ever.Performances began at dusk June 27-30 in the natural amphitheater adjoining the Independence Visitors Center.

"This is truly a frontier epic," said Gerald Harris, executive producer. "There are days of joy, days of hope, days of fear. And the day when faith and love overcome tragedy."

Under the direction of Cheryl Blasnek, a cast of 250 in colorful costumes of the period performed for an hour and 23 minutes each evening. The action included a rollicking Fourth of July horse race, three authentic covered wagons and a stagecoach researched from old models and pictures, and built by the pageant's volunteer craftsmen.

The stage was illuminated by 92 computer-controlled lighting instruments, and 22 speakers reproduced sound from a state-of-the-art, digitally recorded sound track.

The village of Independence as it might have looked in 1833 was recreated for an epic-sized setting, with most of the structures being actual buildings rather than stage fronts. Blasnek said two of the buildings, a print shop and the mercantile, were recently given to the pageant after being transported from Nauvoo, Ill., where they were constructed for a motion picture.

Another building of special interest was a 150-year-old pioneer log cabin donated by Garland Tickemyer. It served in the production as the Jackson County Courthouse.

A popular attraction at the pageant grounds was the "Frontier Fair" from 6 to 8:30 each evening. The fair included working demonstrations of soap making, quilting, rug weaving and wood carving - as they were done in the 1830s. Harmonica and banjo duets, the strains of an antique dulcimer being played, and samples of old-time cookies completed the atmosphere before the pageant began.

This year, attendance was estimated at about the same figure as last year, between 10,000 and 11,000, Harris said.