Santa Maria’s long-running showcase event is just about ready to come flying out of the chute.
“We are about to kick off the 75 th anniversary of the Santa Maria Elks Rodeo and our theme is Denim and Diamonds,” said Elks Rodeo media director Johnna Clark.
The much-anticipated event begins Thursday morning with the always-popular Minetti Mini Rodeo, which features 6,000 local third grade students packing the Elks Unocal Event Center.
Over the four-day period that concludes Sunday, June 3, the rodeo has lined up a number of new events, as well as bring back many traditional favorites.
“The Santa Maria Elks Rodeo is the epitome os family entertainment, whether you’re a rodeo fan, you’re going to love what you see,” said Clark. “You’re going to have the top cowboys and the top stock, but even if you’re not a rodeo fan, you’re going to be amazed.”
On Wednesday, scores of Elks volunteers, vendors and other workers put the finishing touches on preparations at the Event Center.
The rodeo grounds are located east of Highway 101, near Santa Maria Way, just outside Santa Maria and Orcutt.
“We’re pumped,” said Joey Silva, Chairman of Arena Ground Preparation, “Last year was big. This is going to even bigger.”
Over the past couple of weeks, Silva said his groundskeeping crew has spent more than 100 hours meticulously grooming the arena for the top-notch PRCA rodeo that will be held there.
“A lot of time,” said Silva, describing the effort needed the volunteers crew. “We’re out here until 8 o’clock, 9 o’clock at night. It’s just for the love of the sport and so people can enjoy good rodeo.”
The Santa Maria Valley has experienced overcast weather over the past couple of weeks, providing Silva and his colleagues some challenges.
“We opened it up to air it out a little bit, then we’re going to take it and groom it all tonight really good,” said Silva. We’ll come in about 7 o’clock tomorrow morning, check it, see how the top layer is, how the moisture is. We might add a little bit of water. We’ll probably go ahead and groom it one more time and we should be good to go for rodeo time.”
Clark said the rodeo has attracted a record number of entries. She said there’s so many that an extra-long slack competition will be held beginning at 8 a.m. on Friday.
The added competition is sure to create a lot of excitement for the thousands of fans that are expected to pack the bleachers each day.
Spectators that attend will be part of an event that has helped define Santa Maria since its creation in 1943.
“It’s really just been an amazing event that pulls the community together,” said Clark. “What’s great is that everybody comes together and we raise money.”
Clark noted the annual Elks Queen competition has raised more than $11,000,000 over the years.
“That’s what it’s about,” said Clark. “It’s the community coming together and raising money and celebrating what’s wonderful about our community.”
Clark added this year’s rodeo will be especially fun to attend since there will be diamonds given out each night to a lucky winner.
She said random fans will be pulled out of the stands and will compete in a wacky competition created by legendary barrelman Justin Rumford.
“He is brainstorming,” said Clarke. ” I’ve heard hot dogs, beer chug. It’s going to be a little bit of everything. It’s going to change every night, so you’re never going to quite know. They’re going to pick contestants out of the stands and it’s going to be hilarious.”
The 75 th annual Santa Maria Elks Rodeo and Parade will be held May 31-June 3.
For more information, visit www.elksrec.com