The Santa Maria Elks Rodeo will land in the national spotlight in 2017 by becoming a stop on the PRCA Champions Challenge Tour, one of two ways the event’s action will get wider exposure (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

The Santa Maria Elks Rodeo will land in the national spotlight in 2017 by becoming a stop on the PRCA Champions Challenge Tour, one of two ways the event’s action will get wider exposure.

“We’ve been working for the last four years to put Santa Maria back on the map,” said Tina Tonascia, chief operating officer.

The 74th annual Elks Rodeo runs from June 1 through 4 at the Santa Maria Elks/Unocal Event Center.

Opening night will be a stop on the PRCA Champions Challenge Tour, featuring former and current champions competing as teams backed by national sponsors. 

The competition will be filmed for a 90-minute show to air a week later on CBS Sports Network.

“For the first time in decades, Santa Maria Elks Rodeo is going to be featured on a national network,” Tonics said. “That is huge, huge for us. “

The Champions Challenge Tour stops at nine rodeos, including the finals, making the inclusion of Santa Maria’s more special. 

“We will receive a tremendous amount of exposure over the next few months as being a part of this tour. It’s such an honor, it’s such an honor for us to have this opportunity,” Tonascia said.

She said the event will provide an opportunity for spectators to see champions not seen at the Santa Maria event in many years. 

Additionally, the Saturday, June 3, and Sunday, June 4, performances will be streamed live on, letting viewers nationwide watch competition in seven different events.

“We think this is a tremendous opportunity to show the rest of the nation why Santa Maria is so great,” added Johnna Clark, Elks Rodeo marketing representative. 

The event will benefit hotels, restaurants, retail establishments and other businesses in the Santa Maria Valley, she added.

“The economic impact of what’s going to happen over the next few month is immeasurable. At this point because the sky is the limit as to how we can take this opportunity as a community and build it into endless endless success for us,” Tonascia said.

The rodeo committee is partnering with the city of Santa Maria and the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce, organizers said.

Elks Rec Chairman Phil Harwick said the new organizers who took over four years ago sought to improve the rodeo and boost business and tourism in the Santa Maria Valley.

“We’ve broken records in both aspects,” Harwick said, praising Tonascia and Clark for their day-to-day roles.

Also noted was the small army of volunteers who work to make the event happen.

“It’s not just our rodeo, as far as Elkdom, it’s the community’s rodeo, and that’s the one thing this board of directors has kept in their mind from day one, that this is everybody’s rodeo,” Tonascia added.

Rodeo season kicks off with the annual sign-ups for the Beard-A-Reno whisker contest, with registration opening at 9 a.m. Feb. 6 and closing at 5 p.m. April 7. Winners in 13 categories will be plucked from the field during rigorous judging at a dinner May 20. 

Additionally, five Elks Rodeo Queen contestants will seek the crown with the debut set for April 21. Sponsoring committees are Kiwanis Club of Guadalupe, VTC Enterprises, Orcutt Youth Football League, Santa Maria Noontime Kiwanis Club and Cuyama Valley Exchange Club.

The annual parade will travel along Broadway on Saturday, June 3. 

The Santa Maria event will sell hand-painted patriotic Resistol feathers to salute those who served in the military, with proceeds going to the Elks Rodeo committee. 

For more information, call the Elks Recreation Office at 805.925.4125. 

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.