Time was, to compete for a seat at Yosemite‘s annual Bracebridge Dinner, you had to enter a lottery. Not so anymore. Tickets went on sale in August — and some are still available for anyone who wants to attend the national park’s quirky, majestic December holiday tradition that began in 1927.
“It’s one part pageant, one part musical, one part immersive comedy, with a fabulous seven-course meal wrapped around it,” says Sarah Coykendall, producing stage director. “It’s really like nothing else.” Coykendall follows in the footsteps of Ansel Adams, photographer and park lover, who directed and acted in several of the Ahwahnee Hotel‘s Bracebridge Dinners in the late 1920s.
This year Bracebridge will take place Dec. 11, 13, 15, 17, 19 and 21. Tickets for dinner only, excluding tax, cost $320 for adults and $252 for children 12 and younger. Dinner plus a two-night stay at the Ahwahnee starts at $783 a night, plus tax and fees. Check out the menu, which includes Peacock Pie (made with duck), beef tenderloin and plum pudding. Dinner, by the way, may be customized with vegetarian and gluten-free options.
For those clueless about this rather obscure tradition, Bracebridge takes place in the Ahwahnee’s dining room, which is transformed into an 18th century English hotel. The show is based on the fictional “Bracebridge Hall,” written by Washington Irving in 1821. The lead character, a jester known as the Lord of Misrule, runs the manor for the evening with lots of over-the-top pomp.
Coykendall has been tasked with freshening up the show, which she feels carries a message about “the interconnectivity of life, the importance of protecting nature and the idea of peace.”
“We want to reach a new generation, and the generation after that,” she says.
What will be new? This year, for the first time, the jester will be female (though she will still be called the Lord of Misrule). And some of the jokes and story lines have been modified to keep up with the times.
The performing cast works year-round to produce the 3½-hour pageant. It takes about 100 people, including lead characters, chorus members from the San Francisco Opera, cooks, waiters, wine stewards, hotel staff, lighting and production support and others, to pull it off.