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Santa Maria Elks announce Queen candidates for upcoming Rodeo and Parade

Elks Rodeo Queen Candidates
Candidates for the 2024 Santa Maria Elks Rodeo Queen Contest are Tori Ortiz (far left), Alexis Righetti (middle left), Jenna Ramirez (middle right) and Nevaeh Rogers (far right). (Dave Alley/KEYT)

SANTA MARIA, Calif. - The Santa Maria Elks have announced four candidates will compete in this year's Queen Contest for the 81st Annual Santa Maria Elks Rodeo and Parade.

The candidates were revealed during the traditional Queen Kickoff and Auction Dinner, which was held at the Santa Maria Elks Lodge on Saturday night.

This year's Queen candidates are:

  • Nevaeh Rogers, representing Black Student Union
  • Tori Ortiz, representing VTC Enterprises
  • Jenna Ramirez, representing Kiwanis Club of Guadalupe
  • Alexis Righetti, representing St. Joseph High School

"We have we've have a really good group of young ladies this year," said Elks Recreation President Peter Sterling. "They have each each seem to be very focused on their organization, and they have a lot of different events that they're going to be running. I know the community will be very supportive of it. I think it'll be another good year."

Beginning tonight and running over the next seven weeks, the four candidates, along with their sponsoring nonprofit organization, will hold a variety of fundraisers.

The candidate who raises the most money over the seven-week campaign will be crowned Queen during the coronation ceremony on Friday, May 31.

"We've been so successful in raising over $16 million for and for the community," explained Sterling, detailing the overall total raised by the contest since it was created in 1946. "That money all goes back to youth programs. I've talked to other rodeos around the nation when I go over to the NFR (National Finals Rodeo) and they ask me, How will you do it? They can't believe that this little community here raises $16 million over that period of time. One year we we topped $1 million in one contest. That was awesome. In places like San Diego, and other areas that I've talked to, they can't even get close to that, so it's amazing how everybody pulls together and supports it, and at the end, it's all that it's our community that benefits from it as well."

Rogers is a 19-year-old Santa Maria native who is currently studying Elementary Education at Allan Hancock College. She is representing Black Student Union, which supports educational opportunities for Black students in the community.

"I've always loved the rodeo," said Rogers. "I've always loved like horses. I have respiratory issues, and so horses have always been like a sort of therapy for me, and to be like a part of the rodeo instead of just watching, it is going to be really exciting."

Ortiz is an 18-year-old Righetti High School senior. Ortiz was born with optic nerve hypoplasia, which has caused blindness since she was born. She is representing VTC Enterprises, a nonprofit that helps enrich the lives of adults with disabilities.

"I am so excited to be helping out people with developmental disabilities," said Ortiz. "I'm just so glad to be representing them because I have a disability myself, but I don't let that stop me from doing what I love. I'm looking forward to attending all of my events and being able to interact with everyone that's going to be with me and support me."

A 17-year-old junior at Pioneer Valley High School, Ramirez will represent the Kiwanis Club of Guadalupe, which will use funds raised to help support community youth programs. Ramirez said the Elks Rodeo holds a special place in her heart since it has been a favorite tradition in her family for generations.

"I'm super excited," said Ramirez. "I've always been a part of the rodeo. All my family has. We go every year, and so being on the other side where I get to be a part of it, it's just like it's like a dream come true because I've gone ever since I was little, and so has my mom and my grandma. They've always gone, so it's just so exciting."

Righetti, an 18-year-old St. Joseph High School senior, has quite a family history herself with the Santa Maria Elks Rodeo and Parade. She is the great-granddaughter of the legendary Clarence Minetti, a Santa Maria icon who served as Elks Rodeo chairman for more than 25 years.

Righetti will represent the high school where she attends, where funds raised will go towards scholarship opportunities for future students.

"It means a lot to be helping out future Knights," said Righetti. "It means a lot because I get to represent a school that's so diverse, and I feel like a lot of the staff and faculty put a lot of work into the school, and I feel like I get to directly reflect that back to the community by helping out with tuition assistance."The 81st Annual Santa Maria Elks Rodeo and Parade will be held May 30-June 2.

For more information about the event, click here for the Elks Recreation website.

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