Weeks of fundraising while coping with challenges created by COVID-19 culminated with the crowning of the 2020 Santa Maria Elks Rodeo queen under some unique circumstances, including the lack of a rodeo.
Faith DeBrum representing VTC Enterprises captured the crown by raising the most funds, with Sabrina Dana, representing Northern Santa Barbara County United Way, and Anna Kuykendall, representing St. Joseph High School, making up the princesses in her court.
The trio, along with their families and supporters, raised $440,059, pushing the total to $13.5 million raised through the decades to support youth recreation and other programs.
“The rodeo didn’t happen, but the contest lived on, and that’s awesome,” said Peter Sterling, president of rodeo organizer Elks Recreation and chairman of the queen contest. “I admire their perseverance, and I know they all worked hard.”
The contestants had to cope with ever-changing public health orders related to COVID-19 and were forced to cancel fundraising events.
“What they have done this year is awesome. Given what challenges they had, I’m happy for every single one of them,” Sterling said.
Santa Maria Elks Exalted Ruler Wes Brown also noted the hurdles that the three women and their sponsors faced during their campaigns.
“Not everybody could stand up to that pressure, and they have withstood and become stronger themselves,” Brown said. “They are all winners.”
Nerissa Arellano, last year’s Santa Maria Elks Rodeo queen, crowned her replacement after Sterling introduced the trio.
While the trio remained in the race, three others dropped out when public health orders delayed the event from late May to late September. While public health orders ultimately forced the cancellation of the 2020 Elks Rodeo, organizers kept the queen contest active with precautions.
“Ladies and gentlemen, these are our 2020 rodeo-that-wasn’t-queen candidates,” Sterling said.
The coronation ceremony was held Friday at the Santa Maria Elks/Unocal Event Center with a few family members and Elks Recreation board members in attendance — wearing masks and remaining physically apart.
DeBrum, an Orcutt Academy High School student, is a survivor of childhood cancer. At age 11, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and completed four rounds of chemotherapy at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.
Winning the crown was especially poignant since the Elks Rodeo, through the Golden Circle of Champions, raises awareness about pediatric cancer and works to provide financial support for families enduring childhood cancer.
In addition to spotlighting her family and sponsoring committee for their support, she recognized “our giving community, that I always knew was giving in my heart, but it provided even more giving this year. So thank you, everyone.”
Plans are underway for the 77th annual Santa Maria Elks Rodeo scheduled for June 3-6 in 2021.
The rodeo’s organizers have partnered with the Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Department to launch two events for Halloween and Christmas — drive-through activities to meet public health orders.
Haunted Hills will be held from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Oct. 16-17, Oct. 23-24 and Oct. 30-31, with tickets at $30 per vehicle on sale now. Click here for tickets and more information.
Christmas in the County will serve up a holiday light experience while hosting a Stuff the Stocking to raise awareness and funds for pediatric cancer. Clicking here for more information.