Bracebridge Dinner is done for this year, but I already have ideas and plans for next year. Although I’ve lived in Yosemite for 5 years now, this is my first real experience with Bracebridge Dinner.
Why this year? First, bracebridgedinners.com put up some video of the performances on their site. Visit. I can’t describe it to you, and neither can anyone else that I’ve managed to read, although many people try. Although I’ve been staring at the pictures and reading descriptions for years, there’s something about Bracebridge that you just don’t seem to capture with static images. I was surprised at the music, although I knew there was music, and the beautiful costumes, although I’d seen many pictures of the beautiful costumes. They are so much more stunning when they are alive and in motion.
Then, I randomly kept talking to people who are completely passionate about the event. They cry and laugh during the performance, they become radiant if you simply bring up the subject of Bracebridge, and they return year after year to experience it again. Why? I had to find out, so I decided that I needed to see the event for myself. Being the relatively stingy and poor person that I am, $375 just seemed like too much money for one dinner, so I decided to volunteer to be part of the performance. Locals are invited to dress up in costume and play the role of hosts/hostesses, or forest folk, or litter bearers (although there is a height requirement for that last one, that I definitely do not qualify for). Unfortunately, my decision was made at the last minute. Martha was very gracious, and worked hard to squeeze me in.
But, as it turned out, I didn’t need to volunteer. Brian, the amazing boss that he is, contrived to take the Marketing Team to the event. Does that bring me to 487 reasons I love my job?
I had been warned that people dress up for Bracebridge, so I wore my nicest dress, but was still shocked at the elegance in the Great Lounge that evening. Tuxedos and top hats, floor length ball gowns. It was amazing. There were several of us who had never been to Bracebridge before, and I think the more experienced among us enjoyed experiencing it through fresh eyes. Apparently, several of my table-mates got a good laugh at the shocked expression on my face during one part – which I enjoyed so much that I had tears in my eyes.
So, what is it? It’s Christmas at Bracebridge Hall, based on the Washington Irving sketchbook of the same name. I probably hold ‘historic’ and ‘tradition’ in less high regard than I should, but there is a reason this performance has lasted through the decades the way that it has. Andrea Fulton, the producer and director of, and actor in the Bracebridge Dinner performance has worked hard to make the dinner in some ways contemporary and fresh, while still holding on to the Bracebridge tradition begun with the first performance way back in 1927, when The Ahwahnee was first completed.
During the course of the evening you become privy to the relationships and colorful characters who attend or visit Squire Bracebridge for the evening. I wish I could tell you which one was my favorite, but I enjoyed all of them so much the decision is too hard. We were serenaded or otherwise entertained at our table by the actors/singers several times. The intensity of the music becomes physical – vibrating in your chest. The food is superb – the menu designed by The Ahwahnee’s talented executive chef, Percy Whatley.
And next year? Next year I will volunteer far in advance, and I will get dressed up in whatever role they will give me, and I will bring my camera (cameras are forbidden during the performance) to take pictures before and after, and maybe I will become part of the Bracebridge Dinner tradition in my own small way.