Julian is an hour from San Diego but worlds apart in the pace of life and beauty of surroundings. This 1870s-era gold rush town comes alive in their annual salute to spring on Saturday, June 13th when the Sons of the American Legion open the gates to the ninth annual installment of the Julian Dance and Back Country Barbecue. This outdoor event is held at the beautiful Menghini Winery at 1150 Julian Orchard Drive at the foot of Volcan Mountain. Advance tickets ($20) and information are available on-line at JulianDance.org. Tickets at the gate, which opens at 2pm, are $25. Ample parking at the site is free.
This is a charitable event with the proceeds benefiting the community of Julian, its children, schools, and Veterans. There is a huge dance floor with (where else but Julian) a tree growing out of it. A new large stage has been built to accommodate the top notch entertainment that graces the stage year after year.
This year, the music is all country with the Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash headlining the show. Mark Stuart is the leader of this band, which tours the U.S. and Europe, playing large venues of thousands. Rolling Stone magazine describes their music as “pure Americana heart and soul.” The BSoJC are not a tribute band. According to Stuart, “The Bastard Sons never were, and never will be, a Johnny Cash tribute band.” It’s always been about honoring the musical ideals of our heroes and paying respect to the originality, integrity, and independence that made those artists who they are. Our goal was always to find our own road, and to continue to keep the sounds and traditions of American Roots Music alive.”
Walk Alone was their debut CD in 1999. Since then they have released Distance Between, Mile Markers, Bend in the Road, and New Old Story.
The Freight Shakers take the stage before the BSoJC and these guys play real rowdy, danceable “Outlaw Country.” They recently garnered the 2015 award for Best Outlaw Band at the Ameripolitan Awards in Austin, Texas. Led by Gethen Jenkins’ deep rich voice and backed by David Gilliard on upright bass, Gary Brandin on pedal steel, Dale Daniel on drums, and Jeremy Long on all kinds of instruments, these guys took Orange County and Texas by storm and are making fans all over the country. This is another band that plays everything from the largest venues to rowdy country bars. Their music is best described as original, danceable, and fun.
David Benn Thompson, Fairlie Arrow and Shotgun Wedding open the show at 3pm. This high energy, six-piece band composed of musicians from LA and Nashville will play current and classic country covers with the emphasis on getting you out there to dance. They’ll be calling the dances and give you the 5, 6, 7, 8 to get you going.
Make no mistake, this event is “country in the country” but it’s professionally staged by Frank Mooney (Pro Sound) and crew handling the sound and Dave’s Musical Entertainment providing the stage and dance floor lighting that lends the flavor and ambiance of an earlier time.
There’s great food, too. The Santa Maria style Tri-Tip and BBQ chicken that’s cooked on an open oak flame creates such an aromatic, smoky flavor to the event that some eat early and can’t resist seconds in the evening. Ranch beans, coleslaw, and rolls round out the very hearty plates. Prices are reasonable, ranging from $15 to $18 range for the combo plate.
There’s beer from Societé Brewing Company and Julian’s Nickel Beer, Julian Hard Cider, and Menghini Wine as well as water and soft drinks.
This is a family friendly event, however pets are not allowed. There’s a separate area for the kids till 7pm with the usual bouncy rooms, pie eating contest, and water balloon fight. The kids take the stage though in the air guitar contest between the acts.
The sky will be dark for the event and if you haven’t experienced a clear, night-time mountain sky with twinkly lights and warming bonfires, you can’t help but imagine yourself in an earlier time. Days and nights in Julian can vary temperature wise so come prepared. Warm clothing for the evening is recommended.
Reserved tables including food are available by going to the website: JulianDance.org. There will be an ATM available. An ID is required and strictly enforced for those that would like to partake of alcohol. There is a First Aid station on site. For more information including tickets, directions, and to see a great video of The Julian Dance by filmmaker Eamon Long, go to JulianDance.org.
There’s a lot to do in and around Julian; the Chamber of Commerce can provide you with information at www.julianca.com or 760-765-1857.