Long Time Dinner Companion: Delaware North at Yosemite Employee Martha Miller

When you live and work in Yosemite National Park, you can learn many kinds of jobs, such as park ranger, ice rink attendant, tour bus driver, and restaurant manager. If you are Martha Miller living and working in Yosemite for the better part of 60 years, you start out as a teenaged ski instructor at Badger Pass Ski Area, move on to general manager of Tuolumne Meadows Lodge, and round out your career as a coordinator for holiday dining and events at The Ahwahnee. As a concession employee for the last six decades, Martha has served park visitors in these roles and many more (including Manager of the Quarter in 2004), making her the longest of the long-term employees at Yosemite National Park. Though a passion for the park is required to live here as long as she has, Martha also has passion for other things in life, including her horses and another career as an opera production manager. In between Yosemite seasonal gigs, Martha led a double life of worldly sophistication as production manager or touring company manager for various opera companies including the San Francisco Spring Opera (where she began as a volunteer in 1961), Fresno Opera and the English National Opera. She had studied music in school and later toured the world in this capacity, but returned to Yosemite year after year. From her humble beginnings as a teen at Badger Pass, Martha also went on to become one of the first female Professional Certified Ski Instructors.

Martha Miller on a ski trip near Tioga Pass in Yosemite.

Martha Miller on a ski trip near Tioga Pass in Yosemite.

Today, summers find Martha in Tuolumne Meadows and winters find her employing her extensive production background at The Ahwahnee as a special events coordinator. Specifically, Martha assists with the Bracebridge Dinner at Yosemite production, an historic holiday dinner event with musical entertainment that has been hosted in the hotel’s dining room since it opened in 1927. Martha has participated in Bracebridge Dinner in various roles, even being trained for duty by Ansel Adams, famed Yosemite photographer and an early producer of the event. She also coordinates the holiday activities surrounding the production for hotel guests and park visitors during the holiday season. Martha’s favorite thing about working Bracebridge Dinner is getting to know the performers. When asked her favorite thing about working in Yosemite, Martha said, “I love hiking and skiing, but no way I can say one job or the other – they are all special.”

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Martha Miller at The Ahwahnee’s Bracebridge Dinner at Yosemite.

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All Dressed Up: Bracebridge Dinner at Yosemite

bracebridge_costume_bodiceBracebridge Dinner at Yosemite is a venerable tradition that celebrates the winter holiday season with a seven course meal and colorful musical pageant that transforms The Ahwahnee into an 18th century English manor hall. Started at the hotel in 1927, the dinner and performance provide an opportunity to dress formally in a place where visitors almost never pack fancy duds in their suitcases. And if you think visitors are putting on the Ritz as guests at Bracebridge Dinner, wait until you see the costumes worn by the performers!
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bracebridge_orange_dressAll Bracebridge costumes are designed by Melissa Wortman, an award-winning San Francisco Bay Area designer and costumer who has also worked with the American Conservatory Theater and Lucasfilm. Dresses like the ones you see in the photos often require anywhere from 20 to 60 yards of fabric, and 10 to 60 yards of trim from suppliers in Los Angeles, New York and locally in San Francisco. Melissa designed her first Bracebridge costume in 2005 and since then has created over 70 costumes for this Yosemite production. After 80 to 250 hours of sewing, pattern drafting & draping, fittings and millinery work, a work of art is created in the form of a shimmering jewel-tone costume fit for an 18th century manor lord or lady. bracebridge_mens

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bracebridge_pink_dressAll photos courtesy of Melissa Wortman.