‘Heart and passion’ at Hill Cumorah Festival

When the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced last year that it would end its flagship pageant — the Hill Cumorah Pageant, held at the site where the Mormon faith has its roots — in 2020, pageant organizers received a flood of applications from people hoping to participate in the pageant as well as those hoping to come see it.

This year, more than 70 percent of the cast has never participated in the annual production, which launched for its 82nd year on Thursday. Usually, the production is split evenly between experienced cast members and people new to its choreography, timing and intense rehearsals, according to pageant staff.

"I am excited to work with so many new cast members who are going to bring such spirit," said Shawnda Moss, the pageant's first female artistic director. "I think there's going to be heart and passion, and the audience will be touched by that."

Organizers expected such huge crowds they added an additional performance and 3,000 chairs this year. The pageant opened Thursday and, despite considerable rainfall, it saw some 5,200 in attendance.

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