Friday, March 2, 2012

Dickinson County's Annual Easter Pageant at Brown Memorial Park

Clipping from the Kansas City Star, 4/13/1963.
The Brown’s Park Easter Pageant presented its first show in 1946. The Topeka Daily Chronicle wrote of the pageant in 1955, “With a handful of participants, no setting, borrowed costumes, hymnals borrowed from different churches, the project was started by the Rev. W.M. Rogers, former superintendent at Brown Home for the aged, and Miss Wilma Knisely, the youth council’s adult counselor.”

The pageant was originally sponsored by the Dickinson County Christian Youth Council, and as mentioned in the above quote, it was a simple affair. This did not deter the youth from participating or crowds from attending, and within a few years the pageant had become a large production featuring area youth in elaborate costumes and a few different set pieces.

In 1953, the pageant sponsors began construction on a variety of sets for the young performers to act within. These were built out of stone, and though some of the proposed buildings were never constructed, several of these set pieces are still used by the pageant today.

Illustration from Abilene Reflector-Chronicle, 4/18/1957, showing proposed set pieces for the pageant.
In its inaugural year, the pageant began at sunrise, 5:15am. The pageant organizers soon decided that might be too early of a time for most audience members, and changed the official start time to 6:00am beginning in 1948. In 1955, the Topeka Daily Chronicle also reported how the pageant’s structure is arranged. “Each year, additions have been made and the story started a little bit earlier. It now contains 16 speaking parts and a choir of young people from county churches, including four soloists.” Of course, the pageant grew to accommodate a large cast, at one point featuring approximately one hundred student performers.

Over the years, the script has changed, and the pageant’s actors have come to include adults as well. One aspect remains the same, every Easter morning, several Dickinson County residents put on quite a show. No matter what your beliefs may be, I think we can all find something moving in seeing a dedicated group of performers gather together in the early morning hours to put on an honorable show, a show about a story they and many others strongly believe in.