SANTA MARIA, Calif. -- The recently held 80th Annual Santa Maria Elks Rodeo and Parade is being hailed as one of the most successful and best ever staged in the long history of the popular event.
"This year's rodeo is very special," said Elks Recreation President Peter Sterling. "I would say it was probably one of the best that we have ever had."
During its four-day run, the Elk Event Center was filled to capacity during each performance. Tickets were in such high demand throughout the event, people went on to social media each day looking to find anyone who might have some available.
"Every single day there wasn't an empty seat in the house," said Sterling. "Everybody just seemed to be all excited. We had great crowds and everything went off so well."
After such a successful run, Sterling said that Elks Recreation and everyone involved with the rodeo wants to thank the entire community for its support.
"Santa Maria is a very special place," said Sterling. "If you look throughout the nation and at other rodeos, and you even hear the announcers say this, there is something special about Santa Maria and our community, and I think it's we all pull together. We all love our families and communities, and so we're willing to invest in what we can, and we're willing to help each other out, and that's what it is all about."
Sterling estimated there was at least 7,500 people inside the Event Center each day, which help provide an electric atmosphere for visitors and participants alike.
"Our Elks Rodeo and Parade this year went fantastic," said Elks Recreation Vice President Scott Parsons. "The crowds came out in droves. We were sold out Friday and Saturday. Thursday night was one of our highest capacity week nights. Sunday was pretty much sold out. There wasn't a hole in the grandstands that someone could in."
Sterling added final numbers for the event, such as attendance and other metrics won't be known for at least a few days.
The popularity of the rodeo extended to its signature event, the Queen Contest, which included six candidates this year.
During the course of the six-week long contest, the candidates raised more than $890,000, which is a record for a regular campaign, only exceeded by the 2020 Covid impacted contest, which ended up running for several months, generating over $1 million.
On Friday night, Michaela Jamison of VTC Enterprises earned the crown after raising $525,801.
With the big haul added to the overall total through the years, the Queen Contest has now raised more than $16 million since it was first held in 1947.
"All that money goes back into the community," said Sterling. "We have youth programs that wouldn't happen without this campaign, and so, we're very pleased with all the support that the candidates have had this year, and we look forward to another good year next year."
Another huge success was the rodeo's Golden Circle of Champions, its renowned program that benefits children battling pediatric cancer.
Now replicated at more than two dozen rodeos nationwide, including the biggest of them all, the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, the fundraiser for the Golden Circle of Champions netted $160,000.
While the 80th Annual Rodeo in the history books for only a few hours now, work for year's event is just about set to begin.
"Looking into the future, looking ahead, our 80th annual is now complete and we're already looking into our 81st," said Parsons. "We get done with this and we figure out what went right and who we want to have here for next year and how we're going to do it better, but the 81st is not going to be that far out on the horizon, especially for planning purposes. We're really looking forward to and can't wait to see you all back."
Sterling agreed that work always continues with rodeo planning and preparation and added that next year's show will be something the community won't want to miss.
"It's never ending," said Sterling. "With the size of our rodeo and we have other events that we hold out here, but our planning starts a couple of days after and we kind of recuperate and then we're ready to go for next year. It's going to be hard to top this one, but we are surprised when we think we don't know if we can do anything better, but it always seems to come out better the next year, so we look forward to great things next year."
The 81st Annual Santa Maria Elks Rodeo and Parade is scheduled for May 30-June 2, 2024.