According to an online dictionary definition, the meaning of the word “pageant” is thus: “A public entertainment consisting of a procession of people in elaborate, colorful costumes or an outdoor performance of an historical scene.” As you can see, this one qualified on all counts. This photograph in the Museum’s archives captures just a small number of the cast of some several hundred, who took part in “A Pageant Under the Auspices of the History and Landmarks Department Sponsored by the Solano County Federated Women’s Clubs and Presented by the People of Solano County at Benicia on Saturday, May 19th, 1923.”
The pageant took place at Pometta Ranch, once situated on East Second Street across from the current location of McDonald’s. Scripted by Miss Jean Davis of the Armijo High School Department, the spectacle covered the history of every town and city in the county, took many hours to perform, and was an all-singing, all-dancing tribute to the people and events that shaped our local heritage. Those of you familiar with the musical The Music Man may fondly remember a scene in which the well-upholstered matrons of River City drape themselves in sheets and do their best to embody the characteristics of first, “…one Grecian urn,” and then “two Grecian urns,” etc., by striking dramatic poses and holding them for several moments, then moving as gracefully as their senior limbs would allow into the next pose. Imagining this movie moment will give you a good idea of the pace and flavor of the whole affair as best as can be construed from the pageant program in our archives.
The Benicia “episode” featured a lengthy list of legendary and lesser-known Benicia personages: Carmela and Pedro Mendoza, Dr. Robert Semple, Jasper O’Farrell, Lieutenant Warren, Thomas O. Larkin, William Tustin and family, Lundy Alford, Nathan Barbour and family, Captain Von Pfister, Betherel Phillips, Miss Fannie Cooper and Major Stephen Cooper, Jimmie Heeman, Judge Mckenna, Sister Dominica, Judge Hastings, Miss Mary Atkins, Mrs. C.T. Mills, Dr. Breck, Mr. Weinmann and Ulysses S. Grant, Major Powell and General Sherman.
Keeping them company were representative characters personifying “Benicia” and “fame” as well as many “Spanish Dancers” and “Flirts, Singers and Square Dancers” who performed to an original score of music titled Dance of Joys and Laughters of Life, Music of Solano House and Memory Music, composed by Dr. Douglas Wright, Jr. Whew! If you are wondering if there was anyone left in the audience to watch this herculean extravaganza, well, dear reader, there were 10,000 onlookers! The several newspaper clippings we have attest to the enormous success of the pageant which apparently exhausted those appearing in it so profoundly that, as far as we know, it was never performed again! Any interest from would-be thespians?