The 2008 pageant season begins next week when the Mormon Miracle Pageant kicks off in Manti on June 12.
Free as always, these church-sponsored summer productions will attract visitors from around the world and will tell some of the most beloved stories unique to the Mormon experience.
Following is a breakdown of this year's pageants, along with a listing of activities of interest taking place in connection with the pageants.
Mormon Miracle Pageant
The Mormon Miracle Pageant in Manti is the biggest of the Utah productions, with seating for 14,000 people nightly, in addition to space on the lawn. Doug Barton, the pageant president, said 86,000 people attended last year's performances. The production depicts the Savior's visit to the Americas as chronicled in the Book of Mormon, along with the events surrounding Joseph Smith's translation of the book.
Prior to the 90-minute production, a community-sponsored turkey dinner featuring barbecued turkey — one of the area's largest agricultural commodities — will be offered. A booth at City Hall on Main Street will feature history of the area, along with a video depicting the history of the pageant.
The only pageant not sponsored by the church, the Mormon Handcart Pageant is in its seventh year. Written and directed by Brent Boswell, who initially wrote it as a supplement to a stake picnic, the pageant has grown to include a cast of more than 200 people.
The pageant depicts the harrowing trek of the Willie and Martin handcart companies. "It really is an accurate portrayal of what happened," Boswell said. "In the end it really focuses on the triumph."
New this year will be a registry where descendants of pioneers can record their contact information under a specific ancestor's name.
"It's amazing how many people are related to people from these two companies," Boswell said.
Once compiled, the lists will be distributed to people who signed the registry to help with genealogical efforts.
Castle Valley Pageant
The Castle Valley Pageant depicts the settling of the valley by pioneers sent to the region by Brigham Young. The 90-minute production is expected to draw about 10,000 people and features songs, live animals and drama.
Before the performance, a pioneer village will open at 6:30 p.m. at the site of the production to give visitors a glimpse of what pioneer living was like. The village will include homemade ice cream, lessons in rope making, cow milking, Dutch oven cooking and more.
Beginning this year, the Castle Valley pageant will run only on even-numbered years (2008, 2010, 2012, etc.)
The Nauvoo Pageant in Nauvoo, Ill., chronicles the restoration of the church and key points in church history, including the settling of the swampy land that would become Nauvoo.
Hill Cumorah Pageant
Written by Mormon Times columnist Orson Scott Card, the Hill Cumorah Pageant in Palmyra, N.Y., chronicles the journeys of Book of Mormon people in the ancient Americas.
Martin Harris Pageant
The Martin Harris Pageant in Clarkston will not be produced this summer. It is performed only on odd-numbered years (2009, 2011, etc.)
IF YOU GO...
MORMON MIRACLE PAGEANT
When: June 12-14, 17-21; gates open at 6 p.m., pageant begins around 9:30 p.m.
Where: Manti Temple grounds
For more information: Visit www.mormonmiracle.org or call (888) 255-8860
Also: A community-sponsored barbecue turkey dinner will be held each night of the pageant from 5-8 p.m. at the LDS meetinghouses at 295 S. Main and 90 S. Main in Manti. The cost is $7 for adults and $4 for children 11 years or younger.
MORMON HANDCART PAGEANT
When: July 23-26, 9:15 p.m.
Where: County Fairgrounds Outdoor Arena, 350 W. Center St., Nephi
For more information: Visit www.handcartpageant.com or call (435) 623-0196
Also: A Pioneer Supper will be held between 6 and 9:30 p.m. in the fairgrounds multipurpose center. The cost is $9 for adults and $6 for children 12 and under.
CASTLE VALLEY PAGEANT
When: July 31-Aug. 2, Aug. 5-9; 8:30 p.m.
Where: 4785 N. Desbee Dove Road, Castle Dale
For more information: Visit lds.org/placestovisit or call (435) 687-2403
When: July 11- Aug. 8 (Tuesday through Saturday), 8:45 p.m.
Where: Nauvoo, Ill.
For more information: Visit www.nauvoopageant.org/2008
HILL CUMORAH PAGEANT
When: July 11-12, 15-19
Where: Near the Cumorah visitor's center in Palmyra, N.Y.
For more information: Visit www.hillcumorah.org/Pageant