There’s a reason that the Ramona Pageant is the official state play of California. Based on the 1884 novel Ramona by Helen Hunt Jackson, the story is cut from the cloth of Southern California. It weaves together strands of history, news stories, archetypal characters and nostalgic settings.
In celebration of its 90th anniversary in 2013, the Ramona Pageant will be represented in the 124th Tournament of Roses Parade with the four lead characters of the Ramona cast in a horse-drawn carriage, Spanish and cowboy riders on magnificent steeds, and Indian hoop dancers and red tail spirit dancers.
Jehnean Washington, who played Ramona in the 2012 pageant and will ride in the carriage as Ramona, told Examiner that she will be joined by cast members Duane Minard as Alessandro, Kathi Anderson as Señora Moreno and Daniel Martinez as Juan Canito.
TOR Examiner spoke with Washington about her work and Ramona. Read the article here.
Lori VanArsdale, president of the Ramona Bowl Board of Directors, told The Press-Enterprise that there will be up to 14 cowboys on horses. The horses will be fit with special shoes costing more than $100 a set, so she is looking for sponsors.
In presenting the application for inclusion in the Rose Parade to the Tournament, the Ramona Bowl was supported by state and national representatives. California Gov. Jerry Brown wrote a letter endorsing the pageant’s entry. Ramona also took part in the parade in 1998 and 2000.
The play was adapted by Garnet Holme and is performed annually at the Ramona Bowl, a secluded amphitheater in the town of Hemet, for three weekends in April and May by a cast of more than 300, almost all volunteers. It is the longest-running outdoor play in the United States.
Jackson’s novel, which was written to advocate for Indians across America, placed an actual event—the murder of Juan Diego, an Indian likely from the Cahuilla nation, by Sam Temple in 1883—in the historical setting soon after the 1848 takeover of California by the Americans.
Jackson had written an 1881 treatise on the treatment of Indians in the United States, A Century of Dishonor, and a report on the condition of the Mission Indians with Abbott Kinney in 1883. Disappointed with the lack of reaction, she decided a romantic novel about the half-Indian Ramona and her Indian lover Alessandro might engage more people. (Washington is Northern Plains Shoshone, Yuchi and Seminole, and Minard is Yurok and Paiute.)
Washington spoke about Jackson’s inspiration for Ramona. “When she came into the Hemet/San Jacinto area, she encountered locals there and learned of a recent killing of a local Indian, which was written off as justifiable homicide,” Washington said. “She was outraged so she took all of her encounters and experiences and incorporated all of it into this one great story of Ramona, to bring awareness of what was going on with the tribes.
“The characters of Ramona are based on characters she had come across in her travels, their lives, what was going on. It’s interesting to know that her novel has never gone out of print, it’s still in print.”
The 2013 Ramona Pageant takes place on April 20 & 21, April 27 & 28 and May 4 & 5, 2013. Prior to the performance, there is entertainment by musicians, dancers and gunslingers, and a barbecue by the Lion’s Club. Readers can learn more about the history of the play and the background of the novel on the website.
Keep an eye on this column for an interview with actress, musician and composer Jehnean Washington.
The theme of the 124th Rose Parade and 99th Rose Bowl Game is “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” The Tournament of Roses is a celebration that lasts several weeks in the fall and winter, with the high points being the Rose Parade presented by Honda and the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO on Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013. Keep following your Tournament of Roses Examiner for the latest news and for upcoming announcements.
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