Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Pageant of the Cascade

While looking through old newspapers collected and saved by my Grand Aunt and Uncle Crosier, I came across this section from The North Adams Transcript, from June 23, 1938.

It begins, "The Pageant of the Cascade, is a brilliant and colorful spectacle with gorgeous costumes, settings, and lighting effects, given three evening presentations, on June 29, June 30, and July1, at Noel Recreation Field, North Adams, with an estimated cast of 750 people, including over 200 in the band and chorus, under the professional direction of one of the country's leading organizations for the production of large-scale dramatic events. All of the proceeds above the actual cost of production will go toward a public fund for the permanent preservation of the Cascade, one of the beauty spots of the Berkshires." [1]

The Cascade is a breathtaking waterfall found tucked away in a deep gorge in North Adams, Massachusetts, on the north shoulder of Mount Greylock. The falls have also been known as Notch Brook Cascade and The Notch Cascade, though both names date well into the past and are seldom used in the present day. [2]

In 1938, the Cascades were threatened by deforestation because one of the owners of the land surrounding the Cascades wanted to cut down trees to sell for lumber. In response, a group known as the Cascade Group was formed to organize citizens to sign a petition to stop the owner from cutting down trees to sell. These efforts resulted in 1,200 people signing the petition. [3]

The company that organized the event was the John B. Rogers Company, started in 1903 by Mr. John Rogers, an attorney from Fostoria, Ohio, who used the various talents of local actors and musicians to stage his own local dramas and musicals. 

The article continued, " Rich in history and legend, this particular corner of Massachusetts provides an ideal framework on which to construct such a spectacle as that projected in the "Pageant of the Cascade." Combining the beautiful imagery inspired by the region itself with the thrilling and picturesque events that have transpired here down through the decades from the earliest colonial times, the brilliant staging of the panorama that will be unrolled on Noel field in episode after episode, with its special setting and lighting effects, the colorful variety of its gorgeous costuming, its mounted couriers, plodding oxen, rumbling vehicles of olden times, its stirring defense of the old Bay Colony's westernmost outpost, its stealthy Indians and sturdy patriots of the Revolution, its epic part in the construction of one of the world's greatest engineering feats of the period, all presented to the accompaniment of a special musical score rendered by more than 200 vocalists and bandsmen, promises to be a notable event of the 1938 Berkshire season in its own right and on its own merits.

“With the city's civic and social interests widely represented in the hundreds of parts called for by the cast, with the highlights of historic happenings to be portrayed based upon authentic happenings, with costumes from the large wardrobes of the John B. Rogers Producing company said to be faithful to the various periods depicted, and with actual relics of earlier days loaned by local families to be used in the staging of the production, an entire generation that has grown up since the only other undertaking of this nature in the city's history was presented 24 years ago will have a new experience in watching unroll before their eyes a “living movie” of events, personages and scenes that will give them a new conception of the real romance and drama interwoven with their own, everyday surroundings.”  [1]

Alongside these efforts, the Cascade Group planned a three-day “Pageant of the Cascade” from June 29 to July 1, 1938, at Noel Field to raise funds to preserve the area. The pageant included a cast of over 750 costumed performers, including over 200 members of the band and chorus. Scenes included in the performance were reenactments of the Battle of Fort Massachusetts, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1833 visit to North Adams, and Susan B. Anthony’s early days in Adams, Massachusetts. [3]

However, the event ran into some weather-related issues, as mentioned in the July 2nd issue of The North Adams Transcript. But it did not dampen the casts' spirit.


Old North Adams Spirit Flames As Sunday Pageant Goes On

Holiday Plans and Week-End Trips go by the Board as Hundreds in Cast Say “We'll Stick!” in Determination to Uphold City's Traditional Reputation––A Remarkable Demonstration––If Fellow Citizens Respond, Stands Will be Filled for Gala Finale of Largest and Most Beautiful Spectacle in Many Years––Biggest and Only Unanticipated Item of Local Expense is in Souvenir Programs, Which All Are Urged to Buy at Nominal Sum.

Canceling week-end trips, giving up their own holiday plans, even deferring vacation departures, the hundreds of people taking part in the “Pageant of the Cascade” last night demonstrated a spirit which, regardless of the pageant itself, regardless of the purpose for which it was undertaken, is as notable a manifestation of the outstanding characteristic which North Adams, as a community, has exemplified as far back as anybody can remember, as any that have preceded it. 

That characteristic which invariably comes to the fore whenever an emergency makes it necessary, is the determination not to permit any public undertaking, once started, to fail.

And if the fellow citizens of those who are making, in many cases, a genuine sacrifice to uphold the city s traditional record in all such emergencies reflect the same cooperative spirit, tomorrow evening will see every seat on Noel field filled for the special presentation of the Pageant spectacle that, in the face of a 50% loss of anticipated revenue due to circumstances beyond anybody's control, was decided upon when a steady downpour of rain for the second time forced the sounding of the no school signal at 7 o'clock last night, calling off what was to have been the final, and by all precedent the most largely attended of the four Pageant presentations, of which it has been possible to give only two.

No consideration was even given to the Saturday night performance. At the very outset of the plans made for the pageant presentation, the dates of the projected performances were purposely advanced one day so as not to conflict with the annual Briggsville celebration which this year had been set for today and greatly elaborated for the purpose of raising funds for the newly organized fire company. Consequently, when threatening weather again brought the general committee face to face with the question of another postponement, it was a matter of Sunday night or never. 

The possibility––indeed, probability––of the need for this performance, was foreseen yesterday, and numerous members of the cast throughout the afternoon would be willing to go on with it. Practically everybody who was contacted said that if it became necessary, they could be relied upon. And last night, through a systematic telephone canvass, the response was found to be very nearly unanimous.

Many told of the plans that had been formulated with family and friends, but almost invariably wound up with the observation, “Oh, well, it doesn't matter. We can go Monday. All right, count on me.”

The members of the Sons of Italy band said to a man, “Sunday night? Sure! And Monday and Tuesday too, if you want us.”  

And the teamsters and horse handlers so essential to the production did not hesitate at all. “We'll be there” was the answer.

So far, the only comment heard from the hundreds who have taken advantage of the two opportunities to see the production, has been an expression of unqualified praise, and in many cases, of genuine surprise at the magnitude and beauty of some of the scenes.

And the article continued, “One of the heaviest items of loss that will have to be borne locally, aside from that which will be absorbed by the John B. Rogers Producing Company should a loss prove inevitable. Is the cost of printing the souvenir program. The cost was not figured in the incidental expense budget assumed by the local committee, because it was expected to more than liquidate itself through the sale, at a nominal sum, of the programs themselves.” 


Despite a widely praised and well-attended first day, the remaining two days were plagued by torrential downpours and the pageant finished $300 dollars in the red––as The North Adams Transcript reported in their July 5th edition.  [3] [4] [5]

Final Effort Fails To Clear Pageant In Clear

Preliminary Check-up Indicates Books Will Close Still Needing Something Over $300, Despite Fine Demonstration of Community Spirit in Face of Lowering Clouds and Chill Wind Sunday Night––Appearance of Audience Proves Deceptive––Great Majority of Cast Make Cheerful Sacrifice to Retrieve Two Forced Cancellations––No Episode Omitted in Final Performance, Despite Some Unavoidable Thinning of the Ranks.

Despite the lowering clouds and chill wind that closed in on the city Sunday following Saturday's brief and beautiful break in the weather, hundreds of local people in the cast of the Pageant of the Cascade” and other hundreds who exemplified the traditional spirit of the community, made their way to Noel Field on Sunday evening in a final effort to make up for the loss of two performances––the “home folks preview” and the concluding performance that had been scheduled for Friday night––which were rained out.

What a time that must have been. Not only the production but the spirit that was once prevalent in this once great city. That spirit, once so vital to a thriving community, has withered away over the decades. We have lost our sense of community. This is evident not only in our own neighborhoods––where we don't even know or speak to our own neighbors, and have streets and people's yards littered with trash and unused items and appliances––but in the general state of condition of the historic site of Fort Massachusetts: underutilized, overgrown by trees and brush, trashed, and hidden away behind mobile storage units. Certainly, there must still be some breath in that spirit left for us today? 

Below are some photos that were printed in The North Adams Transcript Pageant Section of the newspaper of some of the cast members who performed the Fort Massachusetts reenactment. 

As for the fate of the Cascade, as Melissa Gay summed up in her article, "The Cascades", "Efforts to create a park at the Cascades would remain unfulfilled until the 1970s. In 1974, the city, working with the Berkshire Natural Resources Council, received federal funds for 75% of the purchase price and closing costs for the property. The city acquired the rest of the surrounding land by the Cascades through eminent domain and added the property to the city’s yearly budget to maintain the upkeep of the land and to preserve it as a wilderness-only area." [3] 

Researched, compiled, and edited by C.A. Chicoine

Pageant Section from The North Adams Transcript courtesy of the Howard E. Crosier Archives. 


  1. The North Adams Transcript - June 23, 1938, Pageant Section
  2. The Cascade -- World Waterfall Database
  3. The Cascades, by Melissa Gay
  4. The North Adams Transcript - July 2, 1938, p. 11
  5. The North Adams Transcript, July 5, 1938, p. 3  

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