After that headline, we surely have your attention! Indeed, today we take a trip down memory lane to a beautiful spring day when three California icons—Ronald Reagan, Merle Haggard and Santa Maria BBQ—converged in the nearby Santa Ynez Valley.
According to a newspaper report on March 7, 1982, “President and Mrs. Ronald Regan will travel down Refugio Road into the Santa Ynez Valley on Sunday afternoon from their Rancho del Cielo retreat atop Refugio Canyon to greet neighbors and out-of-town friends at a barbecue and what has been billed as a nationally televised salute to country western music, featuring Merle Haggard.”
Needless to say, the barbecue was prepared in the true Santa Maria style, which was a favorite of President Reagan’s. An official White House photo from that day shows the Reagans seated for the meal with Haggard and Beverly Sills. Here’s how a TV Guide listing for the PBS special described the event: “Merle Haggard and fiddler Mark O’Connor entertain the First Family in a March 1982 concert at a California ranch. Beverly Sills is the hostess.”
This event was just one of many Santa Maria Style Barbecues enjoyed by President Reagan. Local barbecue master Bob Herdman of the Santa Ynez Valley, along with his Los Compadres Barbecue Crew, was famous for staging elaborate barbecues at the White House and Reagan Ranch. He was also in charge of the Merle Haggard barbecue.
According to R.H. Tesene’s definitive book on Santa Maria Barbecue, Herdman and his crew prepared 15 separate barbecue feasts for the Reagans from 1981 through 1988.