Big plans announced for 2017 Elks Rodeo and Parade

New additions include national television coverage

Big plans announced for 2017 Elks...

SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Big plans are in store for the upcoming Santa Maria Elks Rodeo and Parade. On Wednesday, Elks officials unveiled what's in store for the yearly event that has helped define the city for generations.

"The 74th Annual Santa Maria Elks Rodeo and Parade is truly going to be bigger and better than ever,” said media director Johnna Clark.

During a press conference at the Elks Lodge, Clark, along with chief operating officer Tina Tonascia, and Elks Recreation president Phil Harwick, revealed major changes coming to the rodeo this year.

"We have grown the rodeo,” said Harwick. “This will be our fifth performance for this board of directors. We've grown it exponentially. It's one of the top rodeos in America right now."

Among the many changes will be new specialty acts, including renown rodeo barrelman Robbie Hodges, who will be making his Elks Rodeo debut. Also on tap will be new and improved prizes, entertainment, a fundraising campaign for veterans, enhanced rodeo grounds, and perhaps most significantly, national television coverage.

"The rodeo will be the same rodeo with the top cowboys in America showing up and all of our local riders and performers, but the peripheral events, everything is going to be different,” said Harwick. “The side performers, the people that make the rodeo fun and exciting will be a completely different group than were here last year."

As for the television coverage, the rodeo has been chosen as a stop on the 2017 Champions Challenge Tour. On opening night Thursday, June 1, CBS Sports Network will televise 90-minutes of the PRCA sanctioned event, which will air several days later.

"There's 600 rodeos across the nation and PRCA chooses nine to be part of this Champions Challenge, so to be part of that elite group is because this community is doing something right and there's something special about it and that is why they've decided to come here,” said Clark.

In addition, both weekend performances will be broadcast live through live steaming on the Wrangler Network.

"It's going to be a national rodeo and a national event,” said Harwick. “It's one of the fastest growing rodeos and we've seen nationwide recognition."

Elks officials say the national television coverage will be the first for the rodeo in nearly 25 years. It's just the latest example of how the Elks have re-established the event as one of the premiere rodeos in the United States.

"Over the last four years, we've have gone back to rebuilding the heritage and tradition of the rodeo, but we've also worked really hard in shaping the future of rodeo and that is based on family entertainment,” said Clark.

Harwick adds when the rodeo succeeds, so too does the surrounding community and throughout the Central Coast.

"When you grow the rodeo, you grow everything that's attached to the rodeo,” Harwick said. “It brings in more tourism, more business, higher quality cowboys and a great deal more excitement to the rodeo itself, so the rodeo will be a spectacular event this year and we expect this rodeo to bring in a substantial more tourism and business for the city of Santa Maria."

As the rodeo entertains thousands annually, it also continues to be a significant contributor to worthwhile community programs.

"The Elks have two goals,” Harwick said. “One is to support children and one is to support veterans and armed forces. The rodeo itself is a non-profit. The money we make off the rodeo goes straight back into the community."

Most notably, the annual Elks Rodeo Queen competition has raised millions of dollars since its inception. Last year, the overall total raised topped $11 million.

This year, five local organizations have already announced their participation. The candidates will be publicly announced on Saturday, April 21 at the Elks Rodeo Queen Kickoff Dinner and Auction.

In addition to the Queen competition, another fundraiser will be a new one with Resistol. For a minimum donation of $5, rodeo-goers will receive a special red, white and blue ribbon, which they can affix to their cowboy hat. It's a campaign called “Saluting Those Who Serve.”

"(Money) goes straight back to veterans,” said Harwick. “Half of the price will stay local to veterans programs in the Santa Maria Valley, the other half will go to national veterans affairs."

With a mix of longtime favorite events, such as bull riding, mutton bustin' and bronc riding, combined with all the new additions, the 74th Annual Santa Maria Elks Rodeo and Parade is shaping up to be perhaps the best ever. Harwick revealed the theme will be “Experience It.”

"That's the only way to enjoy it is to come out and experience it,” Harwick said. “It's something you need to see on your own and be there and be part of the excitement, come out have a great time and enjoy it. It's the biggest party Santa Maria throws."

The Santa Maria Elks Rodeo and Parade is scheduled for June 1-4.

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