Nauvoo Pageants Transform Town into Village of Volunteers

Contributed By Sam Watson, Church News contributor

  • 31 August 2017

Volunteers fit family cast members with their costumes for the 2017 Nauvoo Pageant.  Photo by Kyle Franklin.

Article Highlights

  • Pageant performers consist of the “core cast,” young performing missionaries, and the “family cast.”
  • The Nauvoo Pageant Bagpipe Band also includes volunteers.
  • Many others work behind the scenes to run the pageants.


According to the Nauvoo Pageantpage on, more than 1,100 volunteers work on the pageants every summer—nearly as many people as live in Nauvoo itself. (The 2010 census lists a total of 1,149 residents in Nauvoo.)

The performers at the pageants consist of the “core cast,” who portray major characters and most speaking parts and therefore remain for the duration of the pageants; young performing missionaries, who as part of their assignment perform in many productions in Nauvoo, including in the pageant and in the Nauvoo Band; and the “family cast,” who are volunteer Church members who remain at the pageants for two weeks at a time—one week to learn their parts, cues, and dances, and the second to perform and teach the new cast following them. (Members can apply to be in the family cast online at

There is also the Nauvoo Pageant Bagpipe Band, which performs at many locations in Nauvoo and the surrounding communities and includes volunteers who accompany the band in order to speak with interested guests while the band plays.

Besides the performers, the pageants rely on many others to function. There is the work crew, who helps maintain the technical and mechanical side of the pageant; the costuming team, who fits the costumes to the cast and prepares them for each new group; family support, who help take care of volunteers’ children during specific parts of the day; food preparation teams for the pageant headquarters; photographers who document the pageant and the work surrounding it; translators who make the pageants accessible for Spanish-speaking visitors; and security and maintenance workers.

Cast members gather around a representation of the political banner that early missionaries saw upon their arrival in Liverpool, England. Photo by Jill Franklin.

Ken Eklof and Denise Williams, portraying Brigham Young and his wife Mary Ann, stand in front of the prop temple that is built as part of the Nauvoo Pageant. Photo by Jill Franklin.

Rob Abney and Joy Gardner, the actors who portray Joseph and Emma Smith, speak to cast members representing the Saints at Nauvoo. Photo by Jim Bennett.

Cast members portraying the families of Joseph and Hyrum Smith sing during the finale of the Nauvoo Pageant. Photo by Jim Bennett.

Volunteers fit family cast members with their costumes. Photo by Jill Franklin.