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Browns ride with Ramona Pageant for Rose Parade - Jerry Brown serves as equestrian group marshal


Last updated 1/24/2013 at Noon

The Browns lead a group of 35 people for the Ramona Pageant

Rainbow's Brown family rode with the Ramona Pageant in the 2013 Tournament of Roses Parade.

Jerry Brown was the marshal for the equestrian group which was in the Rose Parade for the first time since 2000. Brown rode in the parade with his wife, Colleen, and his daughter Lori Brown Smith. Jerry rode Juan for the Money; Colleen rode Moonlight on Silver Sands, and Lori rode Sultan. The Browns use those three white Arabian horses in the Ramona Pageant play which is held annually at the Ramona Bowl Amphitheatre in Hemet.

The Ramona Pageant contingent had a total of 35 human participants along with 19 horses. The Browns rode their three horses in front; Nick and Audrey Popoff drove a two-horse carriage containing four actors who will have major roles in the 2013 Ramona Pageant; 14 cowboys led by Dan Ferguson joined the group with their horses and mules, and 12 Indians and Spanish dancers were outwalkers on the 5 1/2-mile parade route.

"It was a great thing for us to be able to lead our group," Jerry said.

"It was an honor having our family being able to do that and having Jerry as the marshal of the group. It doesn't get any better than that," Colleen said.

Lori's husband, Patrick Smith, drove the recreational vehicle hauling the horse trailer from the staging area near the beginning of the parade route to the equestrian parking area near the end of the parade route. Fallbrook resident Sharae Cunningham assisted Patrick in the behind-the-scenes activities including decorating, feeding, and grooming the horses as well as helping Patrick with the relocation of the RV and horse trailer.

Jerry Brown's path towards becoming the marshal for the 2013 Rose Parade traces back to the previous Ramona Pageant entry. The pageant administration itself was not interested in being part of the 2000 Rose Parade, but several of the Spanish riders wanted to participate. Phil Carter led the Spanish riders at the time, and Jerry was willing to work on the application. He compiled a binder which was submitted to the Tournament of Roses Committee, and the application was accepted. Jerry and Colleen drove the carriage that year.

Jerry's work for the 2000 parade also included writing the theme for the play, which he described as "Enhancing the cultural heritage of the future by preserving the traditions and lessons of the past."

The Ramona Pageant has been designated as the official state outdoor play of California. It is the oldest continuous (on an annual basis) outdoor play in the United States, dating back to 1923. The Ramona Pageant is based on Helen Hunt Jackson's 1884 novel Ramona, which involves the interaction in 1850s California between the Indians, the Spanish, and the new settlers and focuses on the romance between the Spanish woman Ramona and an Indian called Alessandro.

Ramona Pageant officials sought to return to the Rose Parade to promote the pageant's 90th anniversary. "They wanted to advertise to the world," Colleen said. "It just gives the public a preview of what they will see."

When the decision was made to enter the 2013 parade, only one week remained until the application deadline. The pageant administration contacted Jerry, who still had his binder from the 2000 parade application and used that as a basis for the application for the 2013 parade.

"We relied on the Browns and their expertise in being in the Rose Parade," said Ramona Bowl Amphitheatre manager Linda Hoogestraat.

Hoogestraat noted that no current Ramona Bowl Amphitheatre board or staff members were involved in the 2000 Rose Parade. "The Browns brought their level of experience for us, which was very helpful," she said.

Jerry was also asked to be the marshal; Carter had that role in 2000 but passed away in March 2002.

Jerry submitted the application for the 2013 parade using his knowledge both of the 2000 Ramona Pageant entry and of subsequent Spirit of the West Riders applications. He worked with Hoogestraat and Ramona Pageant board president Lori Van Arsdale on the application packet.

"They worked very hard on the application. It wouldn't have happened without them," Jerry said of Hoogestraat and Van Arsdale. "There were so many people to contact, so many things to do."

Jerry was also responsible for giving the marshal's briefing to his group New Year's morning, although he had been present for numerous briefings in the past. The parade was the 13th for Lori and the 11th for Jerry and Colleen. The 1998 and 2000 parades were with the Ramona Pageant while the remainder has been with the Spirit of the West Riders, who portray men and women representative of the American West.

The parade was Jerry's first since 2009. The Spirit of the West Riders did not ride in 2010 and returned to the parade in 2011, when a hand injury kept Jerry from riding although he drove the recreational vehicle. The Browns did not participate in the 2012 parade although Lori participated in the Equestfest, in which the parade's equestrian groups hold an exhibition at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center in Burbank, with the Spirit of the West Riders three days earlier.

Although the Browns rode with the Spirit of the West Riders after the Ramona Pageant ceased its Rose Parade appearances, the family continues to be part of the pageant itself. Jerry took over as the leader of the Spanish riders after Carter passed away, and the 2013 Ramona Pageant will be the 17th for the Browns, who began their activity with the play in 1997. "Our family loves the Ramona Pageant play," Colleen said.

The Browns' participation with the Ramona Pageant entry kept them from joining the Spirit of the West Riders for the 2013 parade, although Spirit of the West Riders marshal and leader Phil Spangenberger was still able to obtain 16 riders. Lori's annual Equestfest activities include a sidesaddle mounted shooting exhibition with Linda Spangenberger, so Lori was with the Spirit of the West Riders for Equestfest and the Ramona Pageant for the parade itself. Ramona Pageant play director Dennis Anderson wrote and choreographed the Ramona Pageant show at Equestfest which included Jerry riding with driver Nick Popoff in the front of the carriage.

RFD-TV, a national television cable/satellite channel dedicated to serving the needs of rural America and agriculture, televised Equestfest. "It looked really nice on RFD-TV," Colleen said. "It was a nice advertisement for the coming of the 90th Ramona Pageant."

During the Spirit of the West performance at Equestfest, Lori rode Ben for the sidesaddle mounted shooting exhibition. "I got all of my targets, which I was pleased about, and Ben did a wonderful job as usual," Lori said.

In addition to Equestfest, the pre-parade activities for the equestrian units included a Dec. 28 reception at the Autry National Center in Griffith Park.

The Ramona Pageant was the 62nd entry in the 2013 Rose Parade, following the City of San Gabriel float and just before the HGTV float.

The Browns were able to spot family members who were watching along the parade route. "It was a perfect day," Jerry said.

"It's an honor to be in that parade and it's a great place as well to promote the play," Colleen said.

In 1998, Lori walked the parade as the carriage handler while her parents rode. One of the horses in that parade was Sultan, who had ridden in other parades during the 15-year interval but not in the Rose Parade. "He did great. He never missed a beat. It was like he never left," Lori said.

In 1998, Sultan was a driving horse on the carriage. "This was new for him to be ridden," Lori said. "He's a very versatile horse."

Jerry normally rides Bud in the Rose Parade while Lori rides Moonlight, but the switch in groups led to the use of Sultan instead of Bud. "One of our trademarks is the three white horses in the Ramona Pageant. We wanted to keep it the same for the parade," Lori said.

In addition to being parade horses, the Browns' Arabians have also been stage coach and wedding coach horses, and Juan for the Money is a former racehorse who broke his maiden at Los Alamitos.

From left, Colleen Brown, Jerry Brown, and Lori Brown Smith wave to the crowd at the 2013 Tournament of Roses Parade.

"It was a real honor as always to be a part of such wonderful groups with talented horsemen and women and beautiful costumes and so much history from both groups. It was a wonderful experience, and as always it's one of the highlights of my year to be able to race shooting sidesaddle on Ben," Lori said. "It's a wonderful event to be a part of, and it's always a pleasure and an honor to be among an elite group of horsemen and women and to be a part of history that way as well as being with my family."

The Browns also led the Ramona Pageant in Hemet's Christmas parade Dec. 1.

The 2013 Ramona Pageant will have performances April 20, April 21, April 27, April 28, May 4, and May 5 as well as an April 19 performance for fourth-graders. "This is a real positive way for us to kick off our season," Hoogestraat said. "We're just really appreciative of the Browns and their continued support."


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