YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK — The government shutdown canceled dinner plans this weekend for 1,650 people who had paid $185 each to dress in medieval attire and dine on prawns and peacock pies.
Five Christmas feasts at the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park were scrapped because of stalled budget talks in Washington that have closed more than 360 national parks and monuments.
"This is one of those once-in-a-lifetime things," said Bill Sullivan of Cape Cod, Mass., who had flown to California earlier in the week in case the park reopened. "I'm really miffed."
The annual Bracebridge dinners have been an Ahwahnee Hotel tradition since 1927, although they were canceled in the past because of flooding and postponed during World War II.
Hotel chef Robert Anderson and his crew of 58 had spent two days marinating tenderloin, shelling prawns and baking pies for the eight-course extravaganza, which features Renaissance entertainment and medieval dress.
Two dinners had been planned for Friday evening; there was to be one on Christmas Eve and another two on Christmas. But officials said it would be impossible for guests to get to the park.
"This is a sad day in Yosemite," said Gary Fraker, president of Yosemite Concession Services. "The performers and staff worked so hard to prepare for the dinners. Snow is falling here in the valley. It would have been beautiful."
He said all reservations will be honored next year.
Meanwhile, the 1,300 concession service employees may be in for a special Christmas dinner. They likely will be eating the lavish dishes themselves.