El Cajon, CA
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Articles by BJ Coleman

Human athletes may speak in troubling terms over how retirement from professional sports has been accompanied by multiple difficulties and subsequent health problems. But what about our fellow creatures on this planet, who themselves have similarly been sporting competitors but have no voices of their own to describe their predicament?

They call it American music. They should.

Bluegrass music may trace its provenance to influences from British Isles folk songs. And the banjo, a distinctive musical instrument in bluegrass bands, may have been developed based on a similar design imported into the country from Africa. But both the music and the instrument were born here, in the southeastern regions of the U.S.

Santee’s Kiwanis Club has a longstanding dedication to honoring excellence in local law enforcement officers who protect and serve East County. This special recognition has continued annually for 20 years.

Downtown El Cajon turned into a happy, sunny gathering spot on Saturday, May 20, despite blistering temperatures. The occasion that drew residents and visitors out into the heat was the fourth annual America on Main Street event, featuring over eight hours of free fun, music and other entertainment on three performance stages, and family-oriented activities and attractions for children. 

The Old West of 150 or so years ago really never seems that far distant in East County. And members of the El Cajon Valley Host Lions Club and the Winchester Widows brought some of those thrilling Western days of yesteryear back to life, by re-creating a cowpokes and saloon gals gambling hall on May 19. The event, alias Gunsmoke VII, featured games of chance, Western background music, and some light appetizers. The Shirthouse Bluegrass Band set the background atmosphere with lively songs and tunes. The festive party was designed to raise money for local charitable endeavors.

The exploitation is incomprehensible for normally sympathetic people. Youth closing out what ought to be pre-adolescence years of innocence are targeted for abuse as sex workers. The numbers are alarming too. Between 250,000 to 300,000 youngsters are at risk, with young prostitutes commonly first recruited when they are 12 to 14 years old. Roughly 100,000 enter the sexual exploitation trades annually. Runaway youth are especially at risk, propositioned to swap sexual acts for money or shelter within 48 hours of arrival on the streets.

Cascading classical melodies engaged a large, rapt audience at Grossmont College as guitar innovator Paul Galbraith staged a solo performance with his customized eight-string Brahms instrument. Galbraith performed compositions from Bach, Mozart, Alexander Scriabin, and Isaac Albeniz at the free concert on the college campus on April 24.

For 18 years, Rancho San Diego’s Cuyamaca College has staged a celebration of springtime in East County, known as the Spring Garden Festival. And for 16 of those years, the on-campus Heritage of the Americas Museum has participated in the festivities with a companion celebration of the area’s Western arts and culture. This year’s event was held on April 29.

The year 1917 seems like an entirely different age in East County from today’s hundred-year-mark later. The small community of La Mesa Springs had incorporated as the City of La Mesa in 1912, with about 700 residents. The newly formed city had four churches serving the faith needs of a populace that was highly engaged in civic-minded activities.

The statement emblazoned on the backs of the orange Team Depot T-shirts almost said it all, “Doing More for Veterans.”

But the activity of the 415 volunteer builders demonstrated how much more was being done.