San Dieguito Heritage Museum to celebrate 30th anniversary with 3-day event


As it has for the last 29 years, the San Dieguito Heritage Museum at the Heritage Ranch in Encinitas will celebrate its birthday with a tradition that dates back more than a century — a communal deep-pit beef barbecue.

Only this year to mark its 30th anniversary, the board that oversees the museum and ranch decided to triple the scope of the fiesta to include three days of activities to run Sept. 14-16.

Festivities will commence with the Americana Music Fest Friday, Sept. 14, 4–9 p.m., featuring 10 bands on three stages. Sponsored by Pizza Port, the event costs $10 per person and will be headlined by Eve Selis.

The BBQ tradition will be upheld from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 15, and tickets cost $25 each, and $10 for those 12 and under. The afternoon will include a vintage photo booth, craft beer and live music by Leftcoast Willie.

The party will conclude with a children-oriented experience — Kid’s Day — from noon to 4 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 16. It will feature art, games, crafts, a petting zoo, bubble blowing, a scavenger hunt and music by Hullabaloo.

All the events are being staged on the ranch, 450 Quail Gardens Drive, Encinitas. Information and tickets are available online at and the museum can be reached at 760-632-9711.

Admission proceeds will support the operation and upkeep of the museum and ranch, which preserve and celebrate the history of the region encompassing the river valley and including the communities of Encinitas, Leucadia, Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Rancho Santa Fe, Olivenhain, Solana Beach and Del Mar.

Museum board Vice President Alice Jacobson stressed the Kid’s Day will offer much more than children typically experience at the ranch when they are welcomed on weekends.

“It’s a special day for kids, bigger than the usual Saturday and Sunday,” she said. “We’re doing as many different things as we can for kids. We want the kids to have really positive feelings about the museum. We want to give them a taste of where they came from and where they are.”

She expects the band Hullabaloo to be a hit.

“The kids go nuts over them,” she said.

While the museum and ranch’s annual celebration has been expanded, the centerpiece remains the barbecue. The farmers who settled the region introduced the feast to rejoice in concluding their Lima bean harvest.

“That was the cash crop in this area,” said museum docent Jan Grice. “They couldn’t grow anything that needed much water.”

Grice, who is 88, came to the area with her parents from Chicago in 1949, she said. Her husband is a cousin of fellow docent and board member Pam Walker, 81, who remembers the barbecues from her childhood.

“In those days, someone would donate a steer, and one steer would feed the community,” said Walker. “Some of us whose parents were farmers here remember those barbecues because it was a lot of fun. It was a celebration where everyone in the area would attend.”

This year, in keeping with the tradition , the beef will be cooked in the ground in a pit lined with stones, on which the coals will be placed. The top will be sealed tight with a metal lid to keep heat from escaping and ensure the meat is thoroughly cooked.

“This enabled the ranchers to cook the meat while they were gone,” Grice said. “They didn’t have to worry about the critters getting to it because it was buried.”

As a merit project, Eagle Scout Brian Stowe of Troop 777 constructed the pit that will be used this year.

“The museum copied what the ranchers had done in the past,” Walker said. “We’re trying to replicate that means of barbecuing. It’s really good because the meat is cooked slowly.”