Gift of the Waters Pageant an important part of history


February 15, 2018

Dennis Nierzwicki

The fate of the longest running event in Hot Springs County, the Gift of the Waters Pageant, was discussed Tuesday evening at an open meeting where members of the community voiced their opinion on whether or not the pageant continues.

Based on the original gift of the mineral water to the white-man from the Shoshone, it not only tells the story of the gift, but lays the foundation for our community.

First performed in 1925, the pageant has been running continuously since 1950. This summer will mark it's 68th year.

Two issues may prevent the pageant from continuing – funding and lack of volunteers.

It takes $6,500 to put the pageant on each year. Advertising funding ($2,500) usually comes from Travel and Tourism, but in years where tourism is down, they may not be able to contribute at the level they have been.

The members of the Shoshone Tribe are paid $3,000 to attend and other operating costs, such as feeding the cast, repairs to the costumes, etc., is $1,000 each year.

The pageant committee knows businesses are hit hard for donations for everything that comes down the pike and funding from a lot of places has been cut back drastically.

Each year, the committee sends out 300 letters seeking donations and receive, on average, 15 back with donations of $20 - $50. The programs are donated each year by the Thermopolis Independent Record.

The other issue facing the committee is a lack of volunteers.

It takes a lot of support behind the scenes to put the pageant on, and volunteers have dwindled down to five or six people who do everything. Even the parade, which in the past was filled with floats, has shrunk down to the Natives and the fire trucks.

There were about 22 locals at the meeting and all agreed, this is the only event that is truly unique to our town. This is the only place where the Gift of the Waters exists. Without the gift from the Shoshone, Thermopolis would not exist today as a place where people can come to experience the healing waters.

While not many locals attend the pageant and some have never seen it in its 67 years, there are crowds of 500 or more tourists who attend the pageant each night.

Some things locals can do are as simple as providing cookies and drinks for the performers after the pageant each of the two nights or helping with lunch after the parade or breakfast on Sunday morning. Women are always needed for the chorus and there are dozens of other, small things, people can do to help.

Right now, without funding, however, the pageant will not be able to go on.

The next meeting for the committee and volunteers will be on Thursday, March 8, at 5 p.m. at the Chamber of Commerce office. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to come.

"This is our history, our legacy," Barb Vietti, the head of the pageant committee said. "This is the heart, the start of our community."


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