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Tulsa Easter Pageant called off

Updated:
TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ The annual Tulsa Easter Pageant, which during its heyday drew as many as 90,000 people to its sunrise service, has been canceled.

Citing financial problems and a shortage of performers, the pageant's directors voted unanimously Monday to cancel this year's show, which was scheduled for Friday.

``We don't have enough people to do the show right,'' board member Elmo Burke said. ``We'd make a mockery of it, and we don't want to do that.''

The production of the outdoor pageant was further hampered this week by rainy weather, which prevented rehearsals and created problems with outdoor wiring.

Burke said the cancellation does not mean an end to the Tulsa tradition, which dates to 1936.

``Starting in two weeks, we're going to be sending teams to do skits in churches to build interest in future pageants,'' he said. ``We're definitely going to have a pageant next year.''

Attendance and interest in the pageant began to wane during the past three years, Burke said. He said declining interest may be ``a sign of the times'' and also cited a failure to get good publicity in the media.

Producer Tom Hicks said the pageant has been struggling for three or four years. He said at least 50 people are needed to do the show, and as of Monday he had only 35 volunteers.

Money was not available for needed costumes and tent and portable restroom rentals.

``Each year we say, `Maybe we should sit back this year,' '' Hicks said. ``This is the year we decided to sit back and take a better look at it.''

The pageant started in 1936, when a Central High School drama teacher and two dozen students told the Easter story to 200 spectators in Woodward Park. During the next 10 years, crowds grew to 8,000, forcing the pageant to move to Memorial Park Cemetery in 1946.

Crowds continued to grow, forcing a move in 1958 to Skelly Stadium. The next year, the Tulsa Jaycees built permanent staging in Chandler Park, where the annual pageant has been held ever since.

In 1995, the production was moved from the Easter weekend to the weekend before Easter.
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