■ By Olivia Gildea / Reporter
Downtown Hemet celebrated its second-annual Spring Festival Saturday, April 7 with a day full of 1800s-era performances, vendors, and arts and crafts. The festival kicks off the traditional “Ramona” play season for the San Jacinto Valley, which will be boasting its 95th anniversary this year.
While the festival is still in its early years, it had no problem drawing a crowd for its opening performances on Harvard Street. It all began with a drum roll as a fife and drum corps from Riley’s Farm in Oak Glen took the stage at 10:30 a.m. dressed in the famous Redcoat military outfits and armed with traditional instruments. The three fifers and one drummer played several songs and spoke of events held at Riley’s Farm, a living history farm and orchard that reenacts life and hardships in 18th century colonial America.
Next was a performance of traditional Cahuilla song and dance. Adult male members of the group sang and shared a drum while the butterfly dancers, a young but large group of girls dressed in bright regalia, danced. At the end of their performance, the group called on the crowd to join in on the final dance, which involved side-stepping in a circle before joining together in the center in cheer. The crowd was not lacking during this popular performance.
The martial arts students of Little Tao Dragon demonstrated their techniques and form for the final performance. The students ended with a lion dance, which is traditionally performed during the Chinese New Year or other festivals in order to bring good luck and fortune.
The attendees of the festival also saw the Diamond Valley Arts Council’s performance monologue “Meet Helen Hunt Jackson” performed by Linda Greilich and a piano duet concert “Music of the 1800s.”
Various booths were also present at the festival, including some with food, arts and crafts, a Ramona Humane Society pet adoption booth, and an information booth by Western Science Center.
Afterwards, many found themselves heading over to Carmalita Street for the food truck festival sponsored by Central County United Way.
The Ramona play first began in California in 1923, and has since been crowned “California’s Official Outdoor Play.” It is based on the 1884 novel of the same name by Helen Hunt Jackson, and is about the mistreatment of Native Americans during the 1800s.
Ramona’s 95th season is set to open April 21 and 22, followed by performances April 28 and 29, and May 5 and 6 at the Ramona Bowl, 27400 Ramona Bowl Rd., Hemet. Call 951-658-3111 or visit www.ramonabowl.com for tickets and information.