“Ramona” goes Downtown

The pre-show festival went to Harvard Street this year, and included exhibits for kids and adults alike

Photos by Corey Evan/The Valley Chronicle
Heritage dancers sample their moves for the upcoming Ramona Pageant.

■ By Corey Evan / Reporter

“Ramona” has been California’s official outdoor play for nine decades. It’s a show that is steeped in tradition, and those traditions were on full display April 1 as the cast of “Ramona” took to Downtown Hemet for Ramona on Harvard, which was held in conjunction with the United Way Food Truck Festival on Carmalita Street.
Harvard Street was abuzz throughout the day with the sounds and sights of this classic native story, but while there were plenty of main characters and heritage dancers present to show off their classic moves, there was also plenty else to do downtown.

Hoop dancer Terry Goedel communes with the rings.

First of all, what with the Saturday Farmer’s Market going on, “Ramona’s” tribe certainly sent plenty of extra foot traffic their way. Second, there were plenty of booths where the community could see historic ads for the Ramona Pageant as well as local businesses exhibiting the best they had to offer. And there were also several classic cars on display, including the Hemet Fire Department’s own classic: a historic fire engine from the 1920s.
In addition to Center Against Sexual Assault and other nonprofits raising awareness for their causes (at no cost to them), Gosch Auto Group was also present to show off the next generation of classic rides, including a four-door Ford Raptor going for, wait for it… more than $100,000.
But let us not forget that this event is meant to stir up excitement for a dramatic story that deals with going through the hardest of times in the worst of circumstances, and making it through with integrity.
The event was headed up by Ramona Board of Directors President Lori VanArsdale.
“We’re very excited that we got together with the city of Hemet, and they decided they wanted to help support us in doing the Ramona Bowl Spring Festival,” said VanArsdale. “Down through the years, it was historic that something happened in the first weekend of April to kick off the ‘Ramona’ season.”

A sheep shearing demonstration took place in the afternoon. That should help Petunia here stay cool in the summer!

VanArsdale says the decision to go downtown with this year’s pre-show festival was influenced by the need to sustain local commerce.
“There’s so much resurgence going on downtown and so much revitalization, we all wanted to participate in that,” she said. “So we decided to do it downtown.”
And the fact that VanArsdale says one in three people she’s encountered in Pomona and Anaheim has seen the show says a lot about “Ramona’s” impact.
One cast member VanArsdale highlighted at the festival was their master of the hoops for the past 22 years, hoop dancer Terry Goedel.
“I was living on the Tulalip Reservation in Washington State, and I saw a group while I was (there) that performed this dance about 46 years ago,” said Goedel. “And about a year later I learned the dance.”
For Goedel, the Ramona Pageant represents a family tradition, as well as a local tradition: “I’ll be at the pageant, along with my daughter who has been dancing for about 13 years. She’ll be dancing with me also. I’ve got four children; three of whom are hoop dancers.”
And the fact he’s been part of the pageant one year longer than Dennis Anderson has directed it gives him that much more experience! Goedel recommends getting a teacher to help you learn the hoop dance, and he does teach the dance at various locations.
The Ramona Pageant will be at the Ramona Bowl for three weekends: April 22 and 23, 29 and 30, and May 6 and 7. Get your tickets now, and save time when you get there: there’s a ton of activities to do pre-show. Tickets are available by phone at (800) 645-4465 or by sending smoke signals to http://ramonabowl.com. Discounts are available for valley residents.
This year’s festival may have snarled traffic in bits of downtown Hemet. But for longtime fans of the Ramona Pageant, that didn’t seem to bother them much.

Members of the “Ramona” cast pose in front of a vintage trolley bus.

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