When visiting the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park years ago with my sister Delane in the summer, we both noticed the promotional materials for the winter Bracebridge Dinner and absentmindedly added it to our bucket list as an experience to have at least once in our lifetime. So imagine my pleasant surprise, when I learned my Bracebridge moment would come this year!
Outdoor Afro friends Frank and Audrey Peterman were invited, courtesy of the Deleware North Company, to take part in this historic Christmas Pageant penned by John Muir, as Visiting Squire and Lady. They generously provided a table for their guests to enjoy the experience, and Outdoor Afro was so glad for the invitation! Dr. Carolyn Finney was also in the mix, so we decided to make the pilgrimage together by car to Yosemite from the San Francisco Bay Area.
Without a shade of difficulty on the road, we descended into the Yosemite Valley in all its winter splendor with a fraction of the crowds. Light snow had fallen on the ground and around every bend of the road was a perfect visual frame of nature hard to harness within words.
The experience of Bracebridge is where “music, nature, and peace are united” in the austere and historic Ahwahnee Hotel that pays homage to native culture and its natural surroundings. After an hour of pre-dinner caroling and picture taking in The Great Lounge (no cameras were allowed inside), the trumpets blew and guests were allowed to process into the festivities in the Great Hall and transported into eighteenth century England. As the program began, I felt so much pride to see Frank and Audrey enter as part of the cast. They brought so much elegance (and diversity!) to the show and their hosted table where we sat was positioned right near the couple at the foot of the stage.
The eight-course meal was served over four hours by the Squire’s serving party, with each course announced with enthusiasm and pageantry by The Manor Parson, serenaded by song: The Fish! The Peacock Pie! The Boars Head! The Baron of Beef! And in between the delicious courses the court jester and cook routinely poked fun at unwitting audience members with some hysterical results – including a gag on yours truly!
After hours of laughter, and revelry, the Squire Bracebridge and his family lead the final procession from The Great Hall and into modern times, and as they did, we Bracebridge guests rose our glasses over full bellies to celebrate with gratitude the joy of the Season and coming of the New Year.
Outdoor Afro is deeply thankful to Frank and Audrey Peterman, the Delaware North Company, and the fabulous folks of table 19 for including us in a memory of a lifetime!