Behind the scenes of the Brigham City Utah Temple cultural celebration

By Josi Kilpack

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, Nov. 16 2012 5:00 a.m. MST

The youth practices began at the end of July and continued weekly from that point forward. At one of the committee meetings a few weeks after practices had begun, the dance director, Michelle Jackman, was asked how things were going.

“Honestly, it’s a disaster, but I have faith that it will come together,” she said.

There was much prayer going on at this time, much pleading with the Lord to help each person play their part to the best of their abilities. At this time, Bryce Day, a special education teacher from Bear River Middle School and one of the directors of the program, was working with the special needs youth to ensure their participation. His wife, Melanie, also a director as well as the theater teacher at Box Elder High School, oversaw the production of props while coordinating the sets, stage, flow and overall movements that would need to work just right in order to work at all.

It would be a lie to say everything went smoothly. There were stumbling blocks in the form of rights and fabric, last-minute changes to routines, gathering of volunteers, sewing emergencies and crashed servers. There were concerns in regard to the changes made to the high school football schedule and the damage that would be done to the field during the performance. And yet, it says in the scriptures that when we have done all that we can do, the Lord will make up the rest. And he did.

On Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012, more than 3,600 youths gathered at Box Elder High School before the sun came. They spent the entire day practicing dances and costume changes, and getting on and off the field in the time allotted. The missionary number included nearly 1,000 flags from all over the world that had to be handed out and then gathered back together without interfering with the program. Props were designated to specific locations around the field, costumes were repaired as needed, and sprained ankles were iced and wrapped.

At 6:30 that evening, Elders Russell M. Nelson and L. Tom Perry were escorted to their seats on a special platform built into the bleachers. They shared brief remarks with the youths, encouraging them to enjoy this experience to their fullest. Following the opening prayer, the youths were cleared from the field, the lights came on, the cameras rolled, the narration began and every youth became a part of history.

I watched the program unfold while remembering committee discussions that had taken place about where the choir should stand, how the meeting of the rails would be depicted, and what fabric should be used for the dresses in the patriotism number. It was mind-boggling to review the details that had combined together to create such a fantastic show. One number after another was executed flawlessly, better than any of the rehearsals had been. The energy and enthusiasm of the youths created an incredible atmosphere, the likes of which I’d never seen. I’m sure I was not alone in my impressions.

At the end of the program, the youths sang, “I love to see the temple, I’m going there someday.” Those of us in attendance did not doubt it.

Following the program, the sets were taken down, the costumes were put into storage, the football field was restored and the committee members went back to their day-jobs, families and church callings. Each of us knew from the start that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to use our talents and abilities, and we are all grateful for having been a part of this moment — a moment that defined a community, a people and a cause.

The Brigham City Cultural Celebration Committee:

Chairman: Beverly Yates; assistant chairman: Debra Hall; director: Melanie Day; director: Bryce Day; assistant director: Scott Nelson; assistant director: Phyllis Nelson; assistant director: Tami Van Dusen; assistant director: LaNan Donovan; technical director: Bob Breitenbeker; stage production and website: Brady Howard; assistant stage production: Shela Merrill; assistant stage production: Kim Merrill; writer: Josi Kilpack; music composer: Tom Shimek; assistant music composer: Claudia Bigler; assistant music composer: Jeff Bigler; assistant music composer: Brian Petersen; dance director: Michelle Jackman; assistant dance director: Becky Reese; costume designer: Gloria Rudd; assistant costume designer: Jill Wallentine; art director: Kelly Donovan; assistant art director: Laurie Nielsen; graphic designer: Shaundra Cragun; videographer: Nathan Rose

Josi S. Kilpack is a novelist, editor and mother of four. For more information, please visit her website www.josiskilpack.com.

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