Dignitaries fly across the pond to Hemet
■ Melissa Diaz Hernandez / Reporter
The Lord Mayor of Westminster, Councillor Steve Summers, used the Ramona Bowl as a backdrop to formally invite the Ramona All Star Band back to London for the 2019 New Year’s Day Parade.
The invite was eagerly accepted by a very excited group of students and audience that included members of both Hemet and San Jacinto city councils, Riverside County Supervisor Chuck Washington, Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians Chairman Scott Cozart, members of the Ramona Bowl board, Fred Latuperissa from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Alex Ballard from the Hemet Unified School District, Hemet High Principal Dr. Emily Shaw, Tahquitz High Eric Dahlstrom and members from the HUSD board of directors.
Ramona Bowl board President Lori VanArsdale and Hemet Mayor Linda Krupa expressed their excitement regarding the invitation and gratitude for the performers. Van Arsdale also expressed her condolences and support for the City of Westminster as the city just suffered a terror attack on March 22 two days prior.
Robert Bone, founder of London’s New Year’s Parade and joint owner and managing director of Destination Events Ltd., made the trip from England with Summers for the special announcement. Bone, as he introduced Summers, commented on the incredible California weather and how impressed he was with all the performers. The London New Year’s Parade has 8,500 performers and pulls in about 350 million viewers worldwide.
When addressing the crowd, Summers discussed the importance of diversity, emphasizing, “the one thing that makes London very special, I think, more so than any other city in the world, is the people and we saw a bit of that this week actually. So thank you, for those kind and thoughtful words that I will take back to the City of Westminster. London and the City of Westminster is an open, tolerant, international and diverse city that is proud of differences, celebrates differences, celebrates heritage and becomes a better, stronger city because of it.”
The ceremony opened with the national anthems of both countries and included performances by the Red Tail Spirit Dancers, introduced by Cozart, members of the West Valley High School Band, and an actor from the Ramona Pageant. Some of the students who performed in the 2016 parade were present at the ceremony, performing on stage as members of the West Valley High School Band.
T.J. Hepburn, director of The Ramona All Star Band, gave some background on how the band was chosen to perform back in London’s 2016 New Year’s Day Parade. Hepburn told the crowd that this all starts with relationships and that this endeavor started when he met Gary Locke, who at the time was the Riverside City College band leader. Locke now works for Youth Music of the World as a senior consultant and said, “it has been said that success is all about opportunity – preparation meeting opportunity — so they have been doing the preparation and we brought this opportunity today that we are going to share with you.”
The Ramona Bowl was approached about sponsoring the trip to London, which allowed them to open up the trip to anyone in the valley. The band included 33 members and hopes to get more members to go this time.