With five candidates vying for the crown, the campaign to capture the 2017 Santa Maria Elks Rodeo queen title kicked off Friday night.
The traditional queen kickoff dinner at the Elks Lodge signaled the start of fundraising for the girls and their sponsors, leading up to the 74th Annual Elks Rodeo from June 1 to 4.
“This year I think we’re really going to have some heavy competition,” said Peter Sterling, queen contest chairman. “I can see that there’s going to be a lot of good events going on, and I’m really excited about this year.”
Candidates introduced Friday and their sponsoring organizations were Madison Hall, sponsored by VTC Enterprises; Mikayla Callaway, Cuyama Valley Exchange Club; Maile Keilani Robles, Kiwanis Club of Guadalupe; Cheyenne Perry, Orcutt Youth Football League; and Molina Gonzales, Kiwanis Club of Santa Maria (Noontime).
They will seek to follow 2016 Rodeo Queen Ashley Singh, who was sponsored by VTC Enterprises.
Several candidates have deep family roots in the queen contest and the rodeo.
Hall, a junior at St. Joseph High School, said her family purchased the “Elks Rodeo Princess for a Day” 10 years ago, launching her desire seek the rodeo queen crown.
After high school, Hall plans to attend the University of Mississippi to major in athletic training, and then earn her doctorate degree in physical therapy at Baylor University.
Callaway’s entry makes the return of the Cuyama Valley Exchange Club to the contest after an 11-year break. The group captured the crown several times in its history of participating.
A junior at Cuyama Valley High School, she hopes to get accepted to a 4-year university and earn a degree in a medical field.
Robles, a sophomore at Righetti High School, also has close ties to the queen contest. Her late father, Ron Estabillo,was active in the Guadalupe Kiwanis Club, and Robles recalled working with him on previous queen contest fundraisers.
She said she wants to further her education after high school with a goal of becoming a special-education teacher or youth counselor.
Perry, a junior at Orcutt Academy High School, also has family ties to the rodeo. Her grandmother, Dorie Rios Perry, was a queen candidate in 1962.
Perry intends to attend Allan Hancock College and transfer to either Cal Poly or UCSB to major in agriculture business or biology, with an eye toward becoming a physical therapist.
Gonzales, a student at Righetti High School, once rode in the mini rodeo as a sponsor flag carrier, and said she wanted to be rodeo queen since first attending the rodeos as a young girl. She credits her love for horses coming from her great-grandmother, Eldeen Scolari.
She plans to attend Cal Poly and or UC Davis with a goal of becoming a veterinarian.
In the decades since it started, the Elks Rodeo queen contest has raised nearly $11.2 million, with proceeds paying for scholarships, recreation activities and other programs.
“It all goes back to the youth in the community,” Sterling said.
Friday night’s dinner kicks off six weeks of fundraisers for the candidates and their committees, with the crown going to the top fundraiser.
The 74th Annual Elks Rodeo is planned for June 1 through 4 at the Santa Maria Elks/Unocal Event Center, with the queen contest winner crowned during the Friday night performance.
— Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.