WEST JORDAN – The public is invited to the West Jordan Rodeo Arena July 20-24, where music, dance and fireworks will meet in the Youth Pioneer Pageant, written and produced by Merrill Osmond.
"Most of the story is about the Mormon pioneers, but it also talks about Catholic missionaries, Polynesians, Chinese – really any group that helped settle Utah," said Osmond's son Shane Osmond, who is a co-producer of this year's performance.
The pageant will combine dancing, singing and acting with fireworks displays and live animals to portray the journey of the pioneers to Utah, including both high and low points along the way.
"It's a theatrical presentation," Shane said. "There are hoedowns where people will be laughing. There's a scene with a mother burying her baby that will make them cry."
It tells the story of why Utah celebrates Pioneer Day, Merrill said.
All proceeds from the pageant will be donated to the Olive Osmond Perpetual Hearing Fund, a nonprofit organization founded by Merrill's son Justin Osmond. All other concerts in the West Jordan Concert Series also benefit the organization.
Merrill Osmond is a world-renowned singer and songwriter and an original member of the award-winning Osmond Brothers. The idea for the pageant came to him while he and his wife were on vacation in Honolulu in 1986, when he had a vivid dream of the pioneers' trek west and was left feeling a greater telling of the story needed to be shared and it needed to involve young people.
"What probably should have taken a few months to write was written within a three-hour period," Merrill said.
He recruited Sam Cardon and Cliff Maag for the project, and the three worked together to write original music for the pageant. The first performance was in 1987 in Draper and drew 15,000 spectators on its opening night. Since then, it has also been performed in Orem, Mt. Pleasant, and Branson, Mo.
"Wherever we lived," Shane said.
This year, Merrill, Shane and Justin have been working with West Jordan to produce the pageant. They held auditions in March for youth 7-25 years old.
"It has been a labor of love," Merrill said. "The fireworks display will be one of the largest in Utah, all coordinated with dancing and singing and about 300 kids and horses."
Merrill’s experience organizing the annual Stadium of Fire celebration in Provo influenced his decision to incorporate fireworks in the pageant.
"I used displays to make it (Stadium of Fire) really exciting, and I took that to the pageant," he said. "The amount of suffering and pain, the sacrifice that so many people made in coming West needed to be told over and over so that we might appreciate what we have today. It will be an amazing firework spectacular."
What: Youth Pioneer Pageant
When: July 20, 21, 23, 24
Where: West Jordan Rodeo Arena