Friday, May 8, 2009

Pageant reading opens a time capsule, gives hope for full reprise of Midway's centennial pageant

By Ashley Trosper
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

It was like opening a time capsule Saturday, April 4 in Midway through a combination of speakers, images and music. The Midway Living History Committee and Midway Renaissance presented a reading of The Midway Centennial Pageant of 1933 at the Thoroughbred Theater.

The reading included actual images and lines from the original pageant, which was put on by over 200 members of the Midway community almost 75 years ago to mark the town’s 100th anniversary. (Photos by John McDaniel)

Lines such as this one told of Midway’s past, including its founding. : “In eighteen hundred thirty three the train made a trip for all to see. It carried the mail and many a man through Mr. John Francisco’s farm it ran.”

According to pageant co-director Herman Farrell, right, Helen Rentch was essential in breathing life into the project. Farrell also said she was the one who found the “treasured” history. “My grandmother was involved in it,” Rentch said. “I came across her script and none of us knew what it was.”

Rentch also found a scrapbook at the Midway Woman’s Club, she said, which really set the Farrell’s project into motion. “If he wanted to try it I was willing to go along,” Rentch said. “Then we found the scrapbook at the Woman’s Club with its wonderful old pictures and it got more exciting.”

Farrell said once the scrapbook was found, “The time had finally arrived to do something about this piece of history.”

Midway Renaissance President Randy Thomas said the public reading was “to let people see images and hear some lines that were said. And to get more people involved.” He said The Thoroughbred Theater was the perfect location for the performance.

“The McDaniels really support things like this,” he said, referring to managers John and Jim McDaniel. “It’s a great venue. It’s an historic theater.”

The original pageant, which told the history of Midway, took place on the Midway College Campus, Thomas said, and at least 2,000 people came to see it. “They came to hear the history of Midway,” Thomas said. “In 1933, that couldn’t have been easy.”

While there weren’t 200 people involved in the reading like in the original, there were almost as many on stage as in the audience. Around 30 community members participated in the reading.

Farrell said Rentch and Becky Moore, chairwoman of the Midway Living History Committee, were instrumental in the casting of the performance. The two women “got folks who are personally connected,” said Farrell, who has been a resident of Midway since 2001.

Many of the readers, according to Rentch, were descendants of the original pageant cast. Others were community members who represented organizations.

“In our generation we came to appreciate the value of the ‘oral tradition’ of passing down history in families and among indigenous peoples,” Rentch said. “In part, because we no longer have those story tellers among us. I see that this could be a similar kind of treasure, a mode for the community to pass down its history.”

The outcome was an hour-long reading filled with history — words and images of the past. “It was fun to get to do something among friends and neighbors and I think Herman did a superb job of staging it so that it felt like something we could be proud of,” Rentch said. “It certainly enhanced a sense of community among some of us who didn't know each other very well before.”

Thomas said he hopes to continue the enhancing this sense of history and community. “The intent is to restage the entire thing,” he said. “This was a great way to get people interested in it.”

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