By DEANNA ROACH

Special to The Hays Daily News

ALTON -- Area residents will present their annual Easter pageant at the base of the Alton bluffs at 6 a.m. Sunday. Following the service, a freewill donation breakfast will be served at Alton United Methodist Church.

The pageant, which focuses mainly on Jesus' final week on earth, can be traced back to a young adult Sunday school class that celebrated Easter by singing at sunrise on top of the Alton bluffs.

The year was 1948, and the students and their teacher, the late Areta Miller, were members of Alton's First Methodist Church. In 1949, members of Alton's Evangelical United Brethren Church were invited to join in. On account of the wind, the service was moved to the foot of the bluffs in 1950 and a pageant was added.

The Mount Ayr Friends Church of rural Alton became involved in 1951, the same year that breakfast following the service was begun, and sometime later the Woodston United Methodist Church began its long-term participation.

Other known help in the early years came from Alton's Pentecostal Church and the rural Lawrence Creek Church, both now disbanded.

Weather is always a pageant concern. In the early years, heavy rains led to a few indoor performances in town, and the pageant had to be cancelled in both 2007 and 2009.

Cold temperatures can always be counted on before daybreak, so audience members are advised to dress in warm clothing and bring blankets or chairs for seating.

Approximately 60 Alton area residents of all ages are involved in this year's Easter pageant and breakfast, which are being sponsored by the Mount Ayr Friends Church and the Alton and Woodston United Methodist churches.

Contact Pastor Homer Smuck at (785)-984-2563 or Rex Johnston at (785) 984-2584 or (785) 346-6209 for more information or any last minute weather-related concerns.

The Alton bluffs have long been a towering symbol of community faith. In years past, a lighted cross at the top was a Christmas beacon that announced the birth of Christ.

In more recent years, three wooden crosses below the bluffs on Easter morning are visible reminders of the death and resurrection of Christ. The sight of them going up at dawn is worth getting up early to see.