SALT LAKE CITY— Forty-five thousand Latter-day Saint youth from 173 stakes in Utah, Nevada and Wyoming will gather in Rice-Eccles stadium on 16 July 2005 for a “Day of Celebration.”

Teenage members (12-18 years of age) of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints will celebrate in song, dance and pageantry the life, teachings and legacy of Joseph Smith. The outdoor spectacular is part of a yearlong commemoration of both the bicentennial of the birth of the Church’s founding prophet and the 175th anniversary of the restoration of the Church.

The program will include music sung by a choir of 16,000 voices. Several numbers feature new arrangements composed specifically for this event. Four thousand nine hundred dancers and 2,400 flag bearers will add color and movement to the music.

A traditional Maori chant known as a haka will also be part of the program. Nearly 1,000 young men will combine gestures and body movements with the chant to express a message of faith and spiritual strength.

President Gordon B. Hinckley is expected to attend the “Day of Celebration” and offer concluding remarks.

The event is being organized by the Utah Salt Lake City Area of the Church under the direction of Elder Jeffrey C. Swinton, an area seventy.

Warren G. Tate, chairman of the “Day of Celebration” committee, emphasizes the program’s upbeat message, “Our theme, ‘Let the Mountains Shout for Joy’ is a happy one. We want our young members to rejoice, to be hopeful, grateful and joyful.”

Tate adds that the message also focuses on heritage, “We want to remind our youth of the sacrifices made by pioneering Latter-day Saints who settled these mountain valleys. We want them to remember the prophet Joseph Smith and all he did to restore the Church.”

Months of preparation on the part of many thousands involved will come to fruition starting at 9:00 p.m. on Saturday evening, 16 July. Performers and audience alike will have a part in this memorable gathering. 

Warren Tate explains, “Everyone in the audience will be part of the event.  We have a few surprises for those who come, and it’s going to be fun.”

The production is focused on the idea of being “by the youth, for the youth.” The only adults expected at the festivities will be those responsible for transportation and supervision.

Church members will receive tickets to the event from their local Church leaders.  Tickets will not be distributed publicly. A live satellite broadcast to Church meetinghouses will allow parents and family members to watch the program.

To keep the spirit of the event long into the future, everyone who participates in the “Day of Celebration” will receive a wristband with the words “Choose Light” inscribed on it.

Wristbands have become a popular means of expressing support and affiliation. The “Choose Light” wristbands will change color when exposed to sunlight. Pale white indoors or in shadows, the wristband becomes a vibrant yellow in sunlight.

“Recent national studies have shown that Latter-day Saint youth know and live their religion,” observes Elder Jeffrey C. Swinton. “This ‘Day of Celebration’ exemplifies the Church’s ongoing efforts to help our teenagers ‘choose light,’ to love and live the Savior’s teachings.”

“Day of Celebration” is one of several youth events being organized by Church leaders in Utah to commemorate the bicentennial of Joseph Smith’s birth. Programs are scheduled in other Utah cities as follows: St. George, Burns Arena at Dixie State College, 8 July, 7:00 p.m.; Cedar City, Centrum at Southern Utah University, 15 July, 7:00 p.m.; Logan, Romney Stadium at Utah State University, 15 July, 9:00 p.m.; Ogden, Dee Events Center at Weber State University, 16 July, 9:00 p.m.; Provo, Marriott Center at Brigham Young University, 6 August, 1:00 p.m., 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. For more information, see: http://www.dayofcelebration.com/ .

A Thousand Lava-lavas for a Maori Haka

“It is not easy to find Polynesian tapa cloth in Salt Lake City,” Virginia Baird explains, “especially when you need 900 yards of it!”

In the upcoming “Day of Celebration” youth spectacular, one of the performances will be a traditional New Zealand Maori chant known as a haka. The haka, meaning to ignite or energize the breath, is an impressive display in which participants stamp their feet, slap their arms and legs, move their bodies and lift their voices to convey strength, passion and conviction.

“We have much to celebrate, and we will do it in lots of great ways,” says Baird, director of the “Day of Celebration” for the Utah Salt Lake City Area of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “That’s why we have asked 500 Polynesian teenage boys and another 500 12 to 13-year-old boys to perform a haka. The chant will express faith, and the haka’s form will remain true to its Maori origins.”

To lend authenticity to the performance, each young man will wear a lava-lava. A lava-lava is a traditional men’s garment still worn throughout the Pacific Island nations today. It is made from tapa cloth and is wrapped, skirt-like, around the waist. Finding the right kind of tapa fabric in Salt Lake City in sufficient quantities to outfit a thousand boys turned out to be a trial of faith for event organizers. 

Hunting for the right fabric, Virginia Baird initially worked with a local branch of a national chain of fabric stores. Her lava-lava production schedule literally went up in smoke when a catastrophic fire in Los Angeles destroyed all the tapa fabric the chain’s supplier had.

With time growing short, Baird scrambled to keep lava-lavas in the haka performance plans.

After vain attempts on the phone and on the Internet to find the right cloth, Baird called Tavita (David) Fiefia, a member of the High Council of the Salt Lake Utah South Tongan Stake. When she explained her dilemma, Fiefia responded, “We’ll be right over.”

Within hours of meeting with Virginia Baird, President Fiefia, who works for an airline, sent his wife, Melolini, to Hawaii where, with the help of friends, she located the needed tapa cloth. It took a second trip with additional family members to bring all the fabric back to Utah.

Melolini Fiefia organized the Relief Society women of the two Salt Lake City Tongan stakes to bring their sewing machines together. As a group, the women made the 1,000 lava-lavas needed for the performance. “We want the Latter-day Saint youth of this valley to be part of a real haka that honors our beliefs,” said Melolini.

“This kind of creative, minuteman response is typical of local leaders’ enthusiasm for the ‘Day of Celebration’,” observed Elder Jeffrey C. Swinton, an area seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who is overseeing the event. “Thanks to extra-mile efforts like this, come July 16th, Rice-Eccles Stadium will be filled with 45,000 youth celebrating their beliefs through song, dance, pageantry — and a Maori chant!”