The Pioneer Legacy Lives On
The Osmond family, comprised of musicians Alan, Wayne, Merrill, Jay, Donny, Marie and Jimmy, are well-known for their musical talents. But Merrill Osmond and his son, Justin Osmond, who currently reside in St. George, hope to bring part of their family’s legacy to Southern Utah.
Besides being known as the entertainment family, the Osmonds have also established themselves with charitable contributions. The Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, which raises funds and awareness for treatments for children across the United States and Canada, was once known as The Osmond Foundation. The Osmond Foundation was started by Justin Osmond’s grandmother, Olive Osmond.
“Our grandmother had two deaf children, who were never part of the musical group. That’s why she started the charity—to raise awareness for the deaf and hard of hearing, and to provide resources for them,” says Justin.
According to Justin, the charity evolved over time into what it is today: The Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Since its inception in 1983, it has raised more than $5 billion.
Besides The Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, the Osmonds have also kept Olive Osmond’s legacy alive by starting the Olive Osmond Hearing Fund, which was created by Justin Osmond.
“I was born into the second generation of the Osmond family, and I was the only one born with a profound hearing loss, so I had an immediate connection with my grandmother,” Justin shares. “She was very passionate about the deaf.”
After his grandmother died in 2004, Justin created the Olive Osmond Hearing Fund with his father Merrill Osmond by his side. He said he wanted to carry out his grandmother’s legacy, dream, and vision by focusing on the deaf and hard of hearing.
The Olive Osmond Hearing Fund’s mission is to “improve and provide educational, musical, and hearing resources available to the deaf and hard of hearing.” A way of accomplishing this is through the events the hearing fund puts together, such as the July 24 event on Pioneer Day, known as The Pioneer Legacy.
Merrill Osmond began creating this production in the 1980s. The first show took place in his hometown of Draper in 1987 with over 12,000 people in attendance.
“They’ll be paying tribute to the Dixie pioneers,” Justin said, “as well as giving back to the community by providing new hearing aids for local families in the Washington County District.” Even though the event is separate from The Days of 47, the Osmonds have partnered with The Days of 47, Inc. as well as Dixie State University to provide musical and firework entertainment for the community during the evening of July 24 at the Legend Solar Stadium. The event is free to all community members.
As part of the event, a local modern day pioneer will be honored. After interviewing a lot of people, Justin Osmond said they have decided to honor the Atkin family—founders of SkyWest Airlines.
“A lot of people don’t know this, but the Atkin family helped settle St. George,” said Justin Osmond. “We feel really good about them; they have a great pioneer story.”
As producers of the show, the Osmonds will be working with approximately 170 kids from Vista Charter School in St. George for the main entertainment. The kids will dress up as pioneers with raccoon hats, bonnets, handcuffs and wagons on set.
Most events celebrating Pioneer Day have fireworks for the finale, but Justin tells us that this event will have fireworks, not only at the end, but throughout the entire show. “It’s like the Bellagio in Vegas, with the dancing waters—everything is computerized, and right on cue with every beat. The fireworks will be telling the story throughout the whole evening.”
The event will highlight the stories of the Dixie pioneers—the heartache and sacrifices they made, as music and choreography is incorporated into the show. The Dixie Trailblazers will also be featured in the show, since Dixie State University’s mascot has to do with the history of the pioneers. The show will also pay tribute to and honor veterans.
This will be the first year the Osmonds have brought this show to Southern Utah, as the original venue for the last five years was Salt Lake City. Since it was originally written for the Salt Lake community, the show has been revamped to tell the stories of the Dixie pioneers.
The production of this show is all under the Olive Osmond Hearing Fund, an often untold story of the Osmonds. “You can look at the Osmonds as the entertainment family or whatever else, but the real emphasis behind all of this, and why we’re doing all of this, is to help raise money and awareness for the hearing impaired world,” Merrill Osmond said.
Along with keeping Olive Osmond’s legacy alive, and helping the deaf and hearing impaired community, Justin Osmond hopes this show will connect with rising generations. “They tend to forget why we celebrate Pioneer Day,” says Justin. “They have no clue of the sacrifices made by the pioneers so that they could enjoy their present day accommodations. Every time we’ve done this, the kids always walk away totally changed—like they’re excited to go find out who their great-great-grandfather was.”
Doors are set to open at 6:30 p.m. for the show, a pre-show will begin at 8:15 p.m. and end at 9:05, and an intermission will then take place until 9:20 p.m. Merrill Osmond’s Youth Pioneer Production & Firework Spectacular will start at 9:20 p.m. and end at 10:15 p.m.
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