Hemet is a city in Riverside County, California, United States. The population was 58,812 at the 2000 census. Each year, the city stages Ramona, formerly known as "The Ramona Pageant," the world's largest outdoor play, based on Helen Hunt Jackson's novel Ramona.
Hemet Valley Medical Center is a General Acute Care Hospital in Hemet with Basic Emergency Services as of 2005. Since the early 1970s, Hemet has produced several United States shuffleboard champions, including Richard Sisk, Scott McCegran, and Lee Osuch.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 25.6 square miles (66.4 km²), all of it land.
There were 25,252 households out of which 23.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.1% were married couples living together, 11.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.9% were non-families. 34.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 23.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.26 and the average family size was 2.90.
In the city the population was spread out with 22.6% under the age of 18, 7.2% from 18 to 24, 20.6% from 25 to 44, 16.6% from 45 to 64, and 33.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 45 years. For every 100 females there were 84.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 79.6 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $26,839, and the median income for a family was $33,579. Males had a median income of $30,771 versus $24,048 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,226. About 12.4% of families and 16.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 26.1% of those under age 18 and 7.8% of those age 65 or over.
The Cahuilla tribe were the initial inhabitants of the Hemet area. During the early 1800s, the land was used for cattle ranching by Mission San Luis Rey, which named the area Rancho San Jacinto. In 1842 the land was obtained by José Antonio Estudillo. In 1887, during the first major Southern California land boom, W.F. Whittier and E.L. Mayberry founded the Lake Hemet Water Company, the Hemet Land Company, and the city of Hemet. In 1895, the Hemet Dam was completed on the San Jacinto River, creating Lake Hemet and providing a reliable water supply to the San Jacinto Valley. This water system was a major contribution to the valley's development as an agricultural area. The area's original inhabitants, the Soboba Cahuilla were moved to the Indian reservation near San Jacinto.
The City of Hemet was incorporated in January 1910. Served by a railroad spur from Riverside, the city became a trading center for the San Jacinto Valley's agriculture, which included citrus, apricots, peaches, olives and walnuts. The city has long hosted the Agricultural District Farmer's Fair of Riverside County, which began in 1936 as the Hemet Turkey Show, now located in Perris. During World War II, the city hosted the Ryan School of Aeronautics, which trained about 6,000 fliers for the Army Air Force between 1940 and 1944. Hemet-Ryan Airport exists today at the site of the flight school. In 1950, Hemet was home to 10,000 people, joined Corona as the third largest city in the Riverside area.
In the 1960s, large-scale residential development began, mostly in the form of mobile home parks and retirement communities, giving Hemet a reputation as a working-class retirement area. In the 1980s, subdivisions of single-family homes began to sprout up from former ranchland, with "big-box" retail following. After a roughly decade-long lull in development following the major economic downturn of the early 1990s, housing starts in the city skyrocketed in the early 2000s. The area's affordability, its proximity to employment centers such as Corona, Riverside and San Bernardino, and its relatively rural character have made it an attractive destination for working-class families priced out of other areas of Southern California.