Justin Boyd

This column was first published in the Mountain Democrat.
Article by Jordan Hyatt-Miller
Pictures by Loren Christofferson

Justin Boyd, proprietor of Coloma’s beloved Marcos Café, organizer of the Coloma Community Market, and co-founder of the Golden Road Gathering music festival in Placerville, has long been passionate about nourishing his community—with delicious, organic food, live music experiences, and opportunities for authentic human connection. “I’ve figured out that I’m good at hosting people,” he says. “I think that community and community space is such an important thing. From kids to retirees, there needs to be a spot where people of all kinds can come and feel safe and open and express themselves.”


The Golden Road Gathering, which Justin co-founded with the former organizers of Hangtown Music Festival, Ryan Kronenberg and Adam Northway, is one such place. After a successful inaugural year in 2023, Golden Road is returning to the El Dorado County Fairgrounds in Placerville, running May 17-19. The all-ages festival will feature over 20 performers, as well as vendors, wellness workshops, and special musical events for kids.


Golden Road Gathering, with its dual focus on Gold Country, the namesake for the festival, and vibrant, communal experiences of music, is of a piece with Justin’s life and work. Born and raised in El Dorado County, Justin began spending his summers on the American River while attending El Dorado High School, and in the following years he performed river rescues and worked as a kayak instructor and whitewater photographer. “I’ve always had a deep connection with the river,” he explains.


When he had the opportunity to purchase Marcos Café, an institution in the Coloma-Lotus community, he saw it as a chance to serve the community he loves. “Coloma-Lotus is a special place. It’s the junction between all these little towns around here, where there aren’t always the same opportunities that you have in cities. I think that makes it even more important to have a community space where people are free to express themselves.”


Over the years, Justin steadily increased the number of musical acts at Marcos until they were hosting performers nearly every night. The performances were free, and the artists were often local acts looking to get their start. “People treasure Marcos”, Justin says. “I know that music heals people. It’s something that’s good for everyone.” In 2023, Justin and his wife, Veronica, were forced to close the old Marcos location, but instead of scaling back their activities, they expanded them. Serving their signature pizza out of a food truck complete with a woodfired oven, Marcos took their shows on the road.


Among many other events at wineries like Hart 2 Hart and David Girard Vineyards and at venues like the Coloma Grange, Justin organized a concert series, Concerts for a Cause, at Wakamatsu Farm. Proceeds from the concert benefited the American River Conservancy’s Resilience Fund. With the smell of pizza, strains of music, and the happy chatter of concertgoers mingling in the summer air, Concerts for a Cause recalled the atmosphere of an evening at Marcos Café.


Avid gardeners and organic food aficionados, Justin and Veronica also helped organize the Coloma Community Market with the Gold Discovery Park Association. The year-round farmer’s market features live music, especially “local acts that don’t mind playing with no stage, outdoors in the dirt,” Justin explains. “There’s a lot of momentum. It’s been a wild, exciting ride going from being a seasonal business for 15 years to having all of these new things happening.”


Marcos will continue to use their mobile pizza kitchen for events in the area, but they are also reestablishing a brick-and-mortar—or, in this case, wood-and-white paint—location: Marcos Café at the Lotus Store, walking distance from Lotus Park. From the Lotus Store, Marcos will sell pizza, ice cream, drinks, and even grab-and-go offerings, taking advantage of its close proximity to the park and the river. It also gives Justin a chance to work in a bigger kitchen, where he can finetune the food that fuels the music: “There’s an art to pizza—I would say I’ve been almost obsessed with dough-making,” Justin laughs.


To get tickets to the Golden Road Gathering, May 17-19 at the El Dorado County Fairgrounds, visit www.GoldenRoadGathering.com.


The Coloma Community Market takes place 2nd and 4th Fridays, June through August. Visit www.facebook.com/ColomaCommunityMarket for more information.


The full schedule of Marcos Mobile Events can be found on Facebook and Instagram.