Seven Owens Valley residents made the trip down to Pasadena last week to participate in the 122nd Annual Tournament of Roses Parade.
Led by Sage Romero, the Aka-Mya dance group was featured in the RFD-TV parade entry with a “One Nation” theme.
According to Romero, RFD-TV “originally had a vision of having a representative for each of the 552 tribes in the U.S., but I guess they didn’t get too much of a response, and ended up bringing the list down to 40.”
Romero’s Aka-Mya dance group, along with many famous Native American performers and the popular Native American band Brulé, were among those selected to appear in the parade.
Representing the tribes of the Owens Valley were Romero, Bobby Piper, Aurora Toledo, Bailey Piper, Holly and Amber Kinney and Elizabeth Richards, who took positions in front of the float and danced their way down the parade route.
“It was an amazing experience, very memorable,” Romero said. “We were involved in rehearsals, which was good experience for the little ones, and Brulé is a very prestigious band in the Native American community. It was an honor to be in the parade with them.”
RFD-TV issued an open invitation to tribal members across the country. When Romero got word of the opportunity, he immediately sent in information on the Aka-Mya dance group and was happy to hear that the seven-member team had made the final cut.
The group headed down to Pasadena the evening of Dec. 30 to meet with the band and other dancers who had been selected.
That Thursday was a time for introductions, a meet and greet and, to the group’s surprise and delight, a private performance by Brulé.
Friday was a different story. Romero said that all 40 performers who were selected spent the day rehearsing and practicing for the big day.
Also, in the midst of the rehearsals was the judging of the parade entries.
The One Nation entry was awarded Best in Showmanship, Dramatic Impact and Craftsmanship.
Then came the big day, with Romero’s Aka-Mya and a selection of other performers leading the float, with another group dancing alongside and behind.
“It was just an amazing experience,” Romero said. “We are honored.”
Romero founded Aka-Mya in 1998 and the group has had a revolving cast since then. The current group ranges in age from 11 to 31, performing at local community events and pow-wows across the West.