Photo courtesy Mono Inn
It’s been nearly 70 years since the Mono Inn celebrated the author of Huck Finn during an event known as Mark Twain Days. Current owners of the Mono Inn, Jim O’Meally and Mario Aguilar felt that the lapse had lasted long enough and have planned a revival this Sept. 14-15.
The event and the Inn have a legacy to uphold, and Jim and Mario aren’t naive to the history they are inheriting.
“It’s n ot about us,” Mario said. “The Mono Inn was once an entertainment center and we want a renaussance of that.”
Wallis and Venita McPherson established the Mono Inn in 1922, but it was Venita that became the face associated with the resort. She is credited with creating the first annual Mark Twain Days in 1928.
Back when Venita ruled the roost, a sign in front of the Inn read, “Mono Lake, the place that made Mark Twain famous,” because Twain wrote about the lake in his first book, “Roughing It.”
According to the Historical Society, “Mark Twain Days grew to be a two-day event that included swimming races (to help correct the misleading impression about Mono Lake’s water given by Mark Twain), packing contests, foot races, sack races, three-legged races, a beauty contest, baseball games, row boat and fishing boat races, and, in years, later hydroplane speedboat races.”
Longtime Eastern Sierra local, Don Banta’s most vivid memory of the original Mark Twain Days was a horse race in the lake.
“The goal was to swim the horse out and around a buoy in the lake,” Banta explained.
“People brought in these high-spirited, fine animals and all these fancy horses lined up at the starting line,” he continued.
However, none of them made it around the buoy except a pair of local kids with a burro.
“That was the first and last time they held a horse race in the lake,” Banta said.
This year’s event will mark the first time the festivities have been held on the grounds of the Mono Inn since 1944 when the festival began to die off because of World War II.
Music and vendors will fill the Mono Inn property and Mark Twain and John Muir impersonators were expected to be on hand.
Festivities will begin around noon each day.