ENCINITAS — The San Dieguito Heritage Museum’s deep-pit barbecue has annually served as a community gathering and an opportunity to spotlight the venerable museum and the story of Encinitas’ rural past.
From Sept. 14 to Sept. 16, the museum, known as the Heritage Ranch, will celebrate its 30th anniversary, with the deep-pit barbecue playing center stage once more on Sept. 15.
The story of the open-pit barbecue has its roots in the early days of Olivenhain, where farmers would celebrate the lima bean harvest with a barbecue, said Pam Walker, whose family were among the original settlers in what is now Encinitas.
“The farmers would tend to grow the beans in spring and summer, because it doesn’t get too hot here, and you have a little bit of moisture from the coast,” Walker said. “So at the end of every season, when the beans dried up and were harvested, farmers would celebrate by having a barbecue.”
The barbecue consisted of 10 to 12 roasts that farmers would season, wrap in foil and then place in water-soaked burlap sacks. They would then dig an open pit about 5 feet deep and 5 feet wide and fill it with firewood in the early afternoon on a Friday. By Friday evening, when the fire had died down to glowing coals, the farmers would lower then sacks of meat into the subterranean pit and cover it with a sheet of metal, lining the sides with dirt so as to trap the heat.
Usually, someone would stay all night to ensure the seal on the pit stayed intact.
“It’s really technical, you have to be careful to do it right,” Walker said.
The next day, Saturday around noon, the meat is taken out of the ground, and another crew would slice the meat, which Walker said always comes out “very, very delicious.”
Originally held at the Olivenhain Meeting Hall, the barbecue has been held at the Heritage Museum since 1988.
In addition to the barbecue, the museum will host an Americana Music Fest on Sept. 14, which will include three stages and 10 acts, in addition to vendors, artists, food trucks and Pizza Port Beer.
The final day of the celebration will include the very popular children’s band Hullabaloo.
Guitarist and vocalist Steve Denyes and drummer and fellow vocalist Brendan Kremer have been a staple in San Diego over the years, winning 17 national awards, positive reviews from People, Parenting, Parents, Cookie and Parent & Child Magazines and being included on three national “Top 10 Best Children’s Music” lists.
Sunday’s children-focused festivities will also include the “Bubble Man” exhibit, a petting zoo, scavenger hunt and plenty of arts and crafts.
Walker also said the museum will dedicate its latest exhibit, a former real estate office building that has been restored with a faux general store front. The four-room exhibit has taken the museum four years to restore and get city approvals after being donated by well-known local resident Evelyn Weidner.
Walker said that she is excited because the celebration will, once again, put Encinitas’ past on display.
“You would be surprised, people will come to museum and say they know there was any history here,” Walker said. “They have no idea that it was different at one time, and in my opinion it was a really a lot better than before so many people lived here.”
“We try to do our best to preserve the past, so that people won’t forget where we came from,” she said.
The San Dieguito Heritage Museum is located at 450 Quail Gardens Drive and is open from noon to 4 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.