Manti Memorial Park is always busy in the summer, but during the Mormon Miracle Pageant the park so overflows with visitors that residents have named it "Tent City."
The pageant is the prime reason for the heightened activity at the park - with as many as 100 tents sometimes erected within its four-acre perimeter and campers double-parked along the streets.Because camping adds a certain zest to attendance at the pageant, the park has become the site for youth conferences, family reunions and other get-togethers.
The park does has ample shade, grass, a swimming pool, playground equipment, rest rooms, two large shelters with cooking facilities and picnic tables.
And all at a very small fee.
A 60-member youth group from the Vineyard Ward in Orem visited the area for two days recently. Forty-eight of them rode bicycles for 45 miles of the trip along back roads. They camped overnight in 17 tents in the park.
They also ate a barbecued turkey dinner in the Manti 1st-2nd Ward cultural hall, attended a fireside on Temple Hill, saw the pageant, ate a Boy Scout-sponsored breakfast the following morning in the park and then rode cars and vans back home.
Linda Roper, Young Women's president, who rode one of the bikes, said the two days were "very hectic" but that the youngsters were deeply impressed by the pageant.
The Hooper 3rd Ward youth program also made the pageant the highpoint of its summer activities. The 34 young people visited Timpanogos Cave on the way to Manti, camped overnight in tents at the park, had the barbecued dinner, attended the fireside and the pageant, got up in time for the special Scout breakfast and then, on the way back to Hooper, stopped off at the Kaysville water park.
What did the Hooper youngsters like most about the two-day activity? The pageant, they agreed. And about the pageant? "The battle between the Nephites and the Lamanites." "The dancing." "Crossing the plains - the handcarts."
Snow College, which has a summerlong program of youth workshops, will host 13 groups - one from Whittier and one from Glendora, both in California, a third from Malad, Idaho, the other 10 from Utah - about 2,000 young people. The pageant will be a major item on their two- or three-day agenda.
"Most of our visitors, of course, come for a late afternoon, perhaps have dinner with us, attend the pageant and then are gone," R. Morgan Dyreng, pageant manager, said.
"But more and more, the pageant is becoming the high-point for longer stays by youth groups, family members who've planned their reunions around attendance, in fact, all kinds of gatherings," he said.
"And we've noted that people are including Temple Hill in increasing numbers in their vacation itinerary."
As for attendance, it's up over last year, when a record 134,000 people viewed the eight performances on Temple Hill, Dyreng said.
Adding a special interest this summer, he explained, are the 45-minute firesides sponsored by the Manti Temple centennial committee each pageant night at 8 on the pageant site.
An LDS general authority is the featured speaker, and combined choirs, each representing several stakes in the temple area, sing.
"Since the pageant performances don't begin until 9:15 p.m., the firesides are not only filling the early evening interval, but also providing our visitors with another very worthwhile experience," Dyreng said.
He said attendance at the firesides is about half that at the pageant performances.
The pageant performances, which began on July 7, will continue through July 16.