As holiday spirits soar it seems like everyone's gone country-Western Christmas crazy. So if it's country entertainment you're after this weekend, you've come to the right place.
The fun starts tonight with a Christmas party at Cousin's Country Saloon in Simi Valley. Larry Dean and the Shooters, a club favorite, will treat you to great danceable original and cover tunes. There will be free catered eats and no cover charge.
Dean will also play Friday and Saturday. And on Tuesday and Wednesday you can catch Winslow, a Venice-based group playing in rotation at the club, that has received thumbs up from club patrons.
Cousin's opened its doors to country music and dancing about 2 1/2 years ago. But it's still the east county's best-kept country secret. The club, which gave us Platte River Crossing and Cactus County, has just changed hands. But don't worry--the new owners, Mark Lucatorto and Craig Smead, plan to hold the country music flag high.
They've already expanded live music to six nights a week. On Sundays, deejay, Jmy "O", plays country karaoke hits. Fiddler Gary Howe and his band will be featured every Monday in December. And you can look forward to hearing local favorites Darlene O'Connell & the Dixie Flyers, the Rhythm Rangers, Shiloh and the Fender Benders in addition to Los Angeles-based country acts like Bounty Hunter and Lou Ann Lee.
There will be no cover charge in January. And innovations are already under way to move the stage to the corner, expand the dance floor and remove a pole in the floor. The club distributes a band and dance lesson calendar in addition to a newsletter.
Dance lessons are going strong from 7 to 8:30 p.m. four nights a week. Miss Ila takes the floor on "Two-Step Tuesdays." Kathy Bailey adds her own style to "West Coast Swing Wednesdays." Gary Howells teaches a mix of couples and line dances on Thursdays. And Pam Donovan leads line dance night on Sundays.
But if you go tonight, make sure Craig's mom, Katie, is practicing Black Velvet. She's just discovered line dancing and begged the guys to delay the party 'til she got back into town.
"Thunder Thursdays" at the Ban-Dar with Thunder radio deejay Bob Allen ends tonight. So don't miss a chance to win prizes, holiday country music CDs and a Stetson hat. Starting at 7:30 p.m. Robin Finnerty will teach a line dance, Take It Easy, and two partner line dances, Silver Buckle and the classic Waltz Across Texas.
As you dance your way up the coast you'll find the crowd-pleasing Fender Benders playing up a storm tonight through Saturday at the Galleon Room in Goleta. The guys sounded great at the Crazy Bull a couple of weeks ago. And band member Dan Wilson assured me that although he wasn't wearing a hat, it was in the car.
On Friday and Saturday, the Rhythm Rangers will again be making country-boogie converts at the Breakers Lounge in the Holiday Inn in Ventura. Meanwhile, Sky King (soon to be called Caught Red Handed) will give you happy feet both nights at Santa Barbara's City Line Club.
You'll want to hit the boards running to enjoy all the family-oriented events planned for Saturday. K-HAY radio will host its annual Toys for Tots collection party from noon to 3 p.m. But the location has been moved down the road from the station to the parking lot of Just Tires, 4547 Telephone Road, in Ventura. Darlene O'Connell & the Dixie Flyers will provide the toe-tappin' music.
You might want to make your K-HAY stop early. Because Ventura Harbor Village is the place to be for a country-Western Christmas celebration. Starting at 2 p.m. you'll find caroling, pony rides, Santa Claus and dance exhibitions.
The Rhythm Rangers band will perform and Rick Henderson will give line dance lessons from 3 to 6 p.m. in front of Carousel Marketplace. And Thunder 105.5 radio deejays Bob Allen and Billy Gibson will broadcast live in order to accept food or cash donations for Food Share, Ventura County's regional food bank. Food Share serves 100,000 county residents each month through 260 distribution centers. Every dollar donated buys $35 worth of food from suppliers. And anyone who gives $40 or more will receive Merle Haggard's new tribute compact disc, "Mama's Hungry Eyes."
Then at 7 p.m. Thunder radio's boat will lead the annual Parade of Lights. And listeners are invited to join in the parade with the Friends of Channel Islands National Park and the Thunder crew. The Island Packer boats depart the dock at 6:30 p.m. and return at 9 p.m. Thunder will provide hot apple cider. Participants are encouraged to bring a pot luck item and to dress warmly. The cost is $15 per adult and $7.50 per child, age 12 and under. To register and prepay, call 658-5740.
Happy trails--or should I say--happy sails!
* WHAT: Christmas Party.
* WHO: Larry Dean and the Shooters.
* WHEN: 7 p.m. today.
* WHERE: Cousin's Country Saloon, 2381 Tapo St., Simi Valley.
* HOW MUCH: free.
* CALL: 522-2559.
* ETC: Gary Howells will teach Cruzin', a cha-cha-beat line dance, 7 to 8:30 p.m.