We wanted to write a post about the closing of “The Great Passion Play” because it changes the landscape of Eureka Springs. The performance was a Eureka Springs landmark event.
The Passion Play, after 45 years of showcasing the last days of Jesus Christ’s life with 130 actors and live animals, closed on December 5.
Declining attendance in the last few years, in conjunction with a slow but steady decrease over the last 20 years, led to the play’s shutdown. This drop in attendance was not unique to the Great Passion Play as other outdoor theatrical venues have also suffered from declining attendance.
Producers worked unsuccessfully to keep the long-time tradition open. Our heart goes out to the dedicated employees, many of whom have spent the better part of a lifetime working with the show.
The Elna M. Smith Foundation is a 501 C-3 nonprofit organization that has run the Passion Play since its inception in 1968. In 45 seasons, the Great Passion Play became “America’s #1 Attended Outdoor Drama” with a total of over 7.5 million people in attendance.
It has been announced that the 677-acre property and assets will be turned over to Cornerstone Bank, the mortgage holder. They plan to try and find a buyer for the property as quickly as possible. It is their hope that someone will step forward to redevelop and reopen a great attraction for Eureka Springs.
“Mainly, we want to try to sell it to somebody who can do good things for Eureka Springs and help the economic viability of the town. That’s our goal,” Cornerstone Bank told Channel 5 news.
Those that worked with the Great Passion Play hope the legacy of their faith will live on forever.
“We hope that it will run in years after, that someone will feel led in their spirit to continue the ministry that we’ve done,” said a foundation representative.
Although the Passion Play is gone for now, Eureka Springs remains alive with entertainment for families and travelers of all creeds. There are two fantastic animal parks in our area, three commercially operated caves, two nightly music theaters, go karts, mini-golf, ghost tours, a mystical illusion show, carriage rides, nature adventures and more.
Don’t forget about entertainment downtown, special events, festivals and parades throughout the year like the upcoming Eureka Gras. Our shopping and dining is truly unique and we have fantastic spas to pamper and promote better health.
While the Great Passion Play may be gone for now, Eureka Springs remains alive and unique as a quirky little vertical town, where everyone is accepted.