Pioneer Day to honor history
Pioneer Day is fast approaching on July 24 and Kamas will be stacked with events before and after the holiday for Fiesta Days. One of the highlights is the annual Pioneer Day Program, a play that retells a significant historical event for the area.
This year’s play, written and produced by Billie Sue McNeil of Kamas, focuses on an event that occurred at the Rhodes Valley Fort in Kamas, which was built by Mormon pioneers in 1866 for protection against local Native American tribes.
In this particular event, John Lambert, a member of the Nauvoo Legion, elected to be the sole person not to retreat into the Rhodes Valley Fort when the tribe was coming down the hillside toward the fort. The tribe rode into Kamas, camped in the meadow, chanted and sang, scaring the settlers, according to McNeil. It was Lambert who spoke with them and the next morning every member of the tribe got on their horse and rode away.
The Pioneer Day play will seek to recreate this event, and McNeil says she finds a particular connection to it as the descendant of Mormon pioneers, who were settlers in Woodland.
"To me, the importance of it is that we owe such a debt of gratitude to those that were brave and strong enough to come here and settle this fight," McNeil said. "The pioneers just really gave their heart and strength to us. It’s really a way to honor them."
One doesn’t just have to be descended from pioneers or even a native of the area to understand the importance the play communicates, McNeil says.
"Whether you’re family or someone who just moved here, I think that attitude of giving what you have to offer [is important]," McNeil said.
The most satisfying aspect of producing the play to McNeil is the planning and visualizing of the historical scenes she is framing. The night of the show, however, is her favorite.
"The spirit of what comes about from what the people see, it’s so stirring," McNeil said. "It’s such a strong community bonding feeling. You don’t have to be an old-timer. You don’t have to be from one of those original families to feel that sense of community."
The Pioneer Day Program will be held on Saturday, July 20, and Sunday, July 21, at 7 p.m. at the South Summit High School Auditorium at 45 S. 300 E. in Kamas.
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