BYU Entertainers Well Received at Tennessee World’s Fair

“BYU Entertainers Well Received at Tennessee World’s Fair,” Ensign, Dec. 1982, 72

BYU Entertainers Well Received at Tennessee World’s Fair

Thirty minutes to show time …

It’s 18 June 1982, and the last performance for the Young Ambassadors from Brigham Young University at the 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee. The cast begins to congregate backstage. It’s been a rigorous schedule for the seven long weeks at the fair: four and sometimes five performances a day, six days a week, and all of them outside in the hot, humid Tennessee summer. The show features as many as twelve costume changes per person per performance, and all of the numbers are vigorous song-and-dance routines.

They are the only college group to be hosted by the World’s Fair.

Twenty minutes to show time …

Some cast members begin to limber up or practice a dance number. Kevin Davis fastens knee supports to his tired, overworked legs. Members of the group have suffered several torn ligaments and pulled muscles. There have been hospital and doctor visits but the show has always gone on as scheduled, and with enthusiasm.

During their stay at the World’s Fair, the Young Ambassadors have presented two firesides for Knoxville Stake, where audiences filled the stake center, and firesides at Kingsport, at the University of Tennessee, and in Cherokee, North Carolina. They did a show at the “Unto These Hills” Theatre, also at Cherokee. Never idle, they also gave a program for seminary morningside at 6:30 A.M. and one for the missionary zone conference, sang at two baptisms, and visited a hospital.

They also presented a show at a school for retarded children in Knoxville. Two weeks later, a woman approached Dave Bromley after a performance. With tears in her eyes she said, “My child Jamie is in the school where you performed. … Our church never accepted him, but in just one hour you made him feel wanted and needed as an individual. He still sings your songs.”

Fifteen minutes to show time …

The gates are opened, and the lines that have been forming for the past hour become a rushing multitude.

Five minutes to show time …

Final makeup and hairdo checks are done as two mirrors leaned against a wall are shared by all. No fancy dressing rooms here. The Young Ambassadors must be as efficient backsta by all. No fancy dressing rooms here. The Young Ambassadors must be as efficient backstage as they are on. They must help each other, or the show’s momentum is lost; often, they’re backstage changing costumes and singing backup on a mike at the same time! Mike Byron, a young Baptist minister, is their officially assigned fair escort and driver and is always backstage assisting with whatever anyone needs. Mike takes this final pre-show gathering as an opportunity to read a poem he has written for them.

Their influence will be felt in Knoxville for a long time; they have not only performed, but have also done missionary work with the elders and sister missionaries, borne testimonies, and given away copies of the Book of Mormon.

Two minutes to show time …

Everyone is in position for their first number. Out in front, the audience waits. When the band is ready to start, Kevin Davis smiles at RaNae Larsen. “This is it.” They all pick up their mikes. …

The group’s influence has been a strong magnet. Often, one or more of the Young Ambassadors are approached by individuals after a performance, and their comments make all the hard work worth the effort.

“A lady came up to me after our show,” recalls Alan Newbold. “She asked, ‘What is the name of your school?’ I told her ‘Brigham Young University.’ She replied, ‘I love what your school teaches.’”

Finale …

As the show ends, Debbie Hall speaks into the microphone. “Life is filled with many mountains to climb and the world has reached a critical crossroad in which people of all nations must decide where their future will lead. We’d like to share with you our dream for mankind. We see a world of peace, of mutual understanding, and of sharing. And in order to achieve this dream, we’re convinced that we must return to these basic values: love of God, love of family, love of brother.”

Afterward, a slightly-built older man comes backstage and grasps Maureen Winterton’s hand. With tears in his eyes he says simply, “I cried with pride.” He is one of many who were so touched during those memorable seven weeks in Knoxville.

  • Elizabeth Beck Rogers is the Gospel Doctrine teacher in the Knoxville Second Ward, Knoxville, Tennessee.