The 12th performance of the Benson Gristmill Pageant features new material including two new songs.
“When we decided to do the pageant this year, we wanted to make it a great event that would appeal to new residents of Tooele County and also lifelong residents who have seen the pageant before,” said Christie Steadman, director. “We tried for a little fresher look including two new songs.”
The first edition of the Benson Gristmill Pageant was held in 1996 and ran each year for 10 years through 2005.
The Benson Gristmill Performing Arts Foundation then presented other musicals from 2006 through 2013. The Benson Gristmill Pageant was presented in 2015 and “Into the Woods” was presented in 2016.
“We haven’t added any new material to the pageant for 20 years, so we’re really excited about this year,” said Gary Swan who wrote most of the music for the pageant and stars as Alfred Lee in the production.
The pageant begins on Thursday night with performances Friday, Saturday and Monday.
“Maxine Grimm wrote a story about the Benson Gristmill several years ago and then came up with the script back in 1995,” Swan said. “We wrote some songs based on the story.”
Grimm died on Feb. 10, 2017, at the age of 102.
“The pageant had an interesting evolution,” Swan said. “None of us knew it would turn into this great production back in 1996. It was done in conjunction with Utah’s 100th birthday as a state.
“That first year we had big crowds night after night and we did it for 10 years. After that, we were all exhausted and took a 10-year break,” Swan said.
Steadman said the pageant covers the arrival of Mormon pioneers to Tooele Valley and the building of the gristmill 164 years ago.
“The production includes a wedding, hoedown, highlights of Tooele Valley history, Indian activities and the Pony Express,” Steadman said. “We’ve even added a scene about the building of the Tooele Army Depot.”
She said production meetings were held back in January with auditions in June.
“There’s a lot of song and dance with 93 people in the cast,” Steadman said.
Some of the main characters in the pageant include Gary Swan as Alfred Lee, Melissa Swan, as Elizabeth L. Lee, Joseph Knickerbocker as Issac Lee, Vanessa Knickerbocker as Elizabeth B. Lee, Cole Snyder as Francis Lee, Natalie Snyder as Jane Lee, Taylor Berg as Eli Lee, Janessa Berg as Caroline Lee, Andrew Swan as Tom Lee, Brandilyn Pahl as Harriett Lee and Allen Pahl as Samuel Lee.
Steadman said this will be her final year directing the pageant.
Gates open at 6:30 p.m. and the pageant starts at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $5 each and must be purchased at the gristmill, which is located at 325 State Road 138 in Stansbury Park.