SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Its time to once again to dust off the Stetsons and polish up your cowboy boots.
Final preparations are underway for the 2014 Santa Maria Elks Rodeo and Parade.
The annual event has raised millions of dollars for the local community since it began 71 years ago.
It remains Santa Maria's biggest cultural celebration of the year this will be the 71rst year of the Elks Rodeo Competition and Parade.
"Its the biggest event of the year for the community", says 2014 Elks Rodeo and Parade Director Jose Arellano, "we've done over $10.2 million in the last 71 years that goes back to the community."
The rodeo had its best year ever last year in terms of attendance and cowboy participation.
"We've always been a PRCA Rodeo, and now we're a WPRCA Rodeo for the women", Arellano says, "the Calgary Stampede rodeo has actually made us one of the qualifiers for one of their barrel races."
The Elks Rodeo and Parade attracts thousands of visitors to Santa Maria every year filling up motels, hotels and restaurants providing a tremendous boost to the local economy, and city tax revenues, at the start of the summer tourism season.
Its fun for all ages too.
The Mini-rodeo was created by late rancher and businessman Clarence Minetti who wanted to expose younger generations to the sport and fun of rodeo that is deeply rooted in the history and heritage of the Santa Maria Valley.
"It is a very rich culture in Santa Maria", Arellano says, "its been around 71 years and its still going to be strong for many years to come."
This year's Elks Rodeo Parade will be in memory of Bobby Aquistapace, a longtime Elk and Elks Rodeo-Parade organizer who died suddenly last December at age 63.
"We miss him a lot", Arellano says, "he was a true friend, he was a mentor of ours, we miss him a lot and look forward to living with his memory throughout the Rodeo."
The Elks Rodeo Queen Contest is making another return to the center stage after last year's cancellation.
Organizers say they want to return the once popular competition to its former glory.
Over the years the Elks Rodeo Queen Contest has had a prominent role in the growth of the rodeo's popularity with its remarkable fundraising capability.
"The reason they brought me back is so that I could bring back the traditional roots", says Peter Sterling, Chairman of the 2014 Queen Contest.
Its a job Sterling once had before the contest ran into difficulty and was either cancelled or changed due to the poor economy and a lack of support.
"We are bringing back a lot of the traditional functions and that type of thing that we had in the past", Sterling says.
This year five girls between the ages of 16 and 21 will represent five local non-profit groups during an ambitious six week long fundraising effort.
The winner of the Queen Contest will be determined by the contestant that raises the most money.
More than $10 million has been raised for local youth recreation since the Queen Contest began decades ago.
"We were raising as much as $700,000 in one contest", Sterling says, "I don't expect that for this year but we do have some momentum, I can feel we're going to have a lot more non-profit organizations that will be interested in this next year."
The five young women vying to be Elks Rodeo Queen 2014 will be introduced at a kick-off dinner and auction on April 19 at the Santa Maria Elks Club Lodge on Bradley Road.
For more information about Elks Rodeo and Parade events, scheduling and ticket information go to: http://elksrec.com/schedule