2024 Elks Rodeo Queen Candidates introduced as rodeo season begins

Queen candidates for the 81st annual Santa Maria Elks Rodeo and Parade pose for a photo on Saturday, April 6, at the Elks Lodge. The candidates are, from left, Nevaeh Rogers, Tori Ortiz, reigning 2023 Queen Michaela Jamison, Alexis Righetti, and Jenna Ramirez. Photo by Elliott Stern.

Four young women meet the public with eyes on becoming this year’s Rodeo Queen

SANTA MARIA, CA – The countdown is underway for the 81st annual Santa Maria Elks Rodeo and Parade.

Rodeo season began in earnest with the kickoff dinner and auction, on Saturday, April 6, in support of the annual Elks Rodeo Queen campaign where the 2024 Queen Candidates met the public for the first time.

This year, four young women are competing for the coveted honor – (listed alphabetically) Tori Ortiz, Jenna Ramirez, Alexis Righetti, and Nevaeh Rogers.

“We’re excited to get the competition underway,” said longtime Elks Rodeo Queen Committee Chairman and Elks Recreation Committee Chairman Peter Sterling, now in his 23rd year heading up the Queen Committee. “We have four outstanding young women who are all excellent representatives of their organizations and our community. I know only one can be crowned Queen but they are all winners.”

Over the years, the Queen Campaign has raised more than $16-millon.

“That’s money that stays here in the community,” said Sterling. “The Queen candidates and their committees all direct where the money goes – which local groups will benefit from their hard work.”

The young women will blanket the Santa Maria area with all sorts of fundraisers over the next two months. The candidate who raises the most money will be crowned 2024 Elks Rodeo Queen in the middle of the rodeo’s second performance, Friday night, May 31st.

Tori Ortiz

Tori Ortiz represents VTC Enterprises. Photo by Elliott Stern.

Ortiz, 18, represents VTC Enterprises, a local organization that provides a place for people with disabilities to thrive.

Ortiz was born with optic nerve hypoplasia which caused blindness from birth.

“Even though I have no vision, it has never stopped me from seeing the world,” said Ortiz, a senior at Righetti High School. “Our Queen Chairman John Glines liked what I did at the Santa Barbara County Fair. I took part in the Warrior Goat Program. That lets students with disabilities raise and market goats at no cost. They liked what they saw and asked me if I wanted to be a part of the Queen campaign.

“In July 2023, I won grand champion goat and was top of my class in intermediate showmanship with my breeding doe Pearl.”

Ortiz plans to attend Hancock College next year and eventually transfer to Cal Poly to pursue a degree in Animal Sciences.

Fundraising events include raffles for a 2024 Corvette convertible, a $3,000 Amazon gift card, and a $3,000 Disney gift card; a Kentucky Derby dinner and auction and dinner and auction on May 11, and a barbecue drive-thru.

Ortiz’s parents are Marivel and Rafael Ortiz. She has three sisters – 21-year-old Dellis, 16-year-old Viviana, and 6-year-old Olivia.

As for previous rodeo experience, Ortiz has been to the Minetti Mini Rodeo.

“I went back when I was at Ontiveros Elementary School,” said Ortiz. “It was really cool. I loved hearing the announcers and there were so many people.

“This is absolutely fun. It’s been wonderful. I don’t feel any pressure. Really, it’s just been great. This is something special, something new to me, and I am just so excited. My family has never experienced anything like this. We’re all so excited.”

VTC is home to the reigning Queen, 2023 Queen Campaign winner Machaela Jamison, currently a senior at Righetti High.

For more information on the VTC campaign fundraisers, visit the VTC Queen website at https://vtcrodeoqueen.com/

Jenna Ramirez

Jenna Ramirez represents the Kiwanis Club of Guadalupe. Photo by Elliott Stern.

Ramirez, 17, represents the Kiwanis Club of Guadalupe.

Ramirez is a junior at Pioneer Valley High School.

She’s been attending the Elks Rodeo her entire life.

We’re a rodeo family,” said Ramirez. “I’ve always gone to the Elks Rodeo. My mom, Rachelle, and Dad, Salvador, my grandmother. They’ve always gone, too, and they’ve taken me, my brother Ramon (13), and sister Saryna (27) since we were kids.”

Ramirez plans to attend a four-year university after high school.

“I’m thinking of majoring in something in the medical field, like radiology, or maybe forensic science,” said Ramirez.

She is part of the PVHS water polo, swim, and cheer teams, and also a member of the school’s FFA.

“We’re so busy right now with fundraisers and public appearances, but it is so much fun,” said Ramirez. “Coming up, we have fundraising dinners, a golf tournament at Rancho Maria, a cornhole tournament at the Red Barn in Guadalupe, and a Casino Night at the Red Barn, too. There’s just a bunch of things. We have it all listed on our website. (https://www.facebook.com/GuadalupeKiwanisElksRodeo/)

“It all leads to rodeo week (May 30 through June 2) and I’m really looking forward to rodeo week.”

Alexis Righetti

Alexis Righetti represents St. Joseph High School. Photo by Elliott Stern.

Righetti, 18, is a senior at St. Joseph High School and is the school’s representative in the Queen Campaign.

The money raised will go toward tuition assistance for St. Joe students.

“I am really excited and honored to have the chance to compete with such outstanding young women who represent outstanding organizations,” said Righetti.

She is a member of the St, Joseph 4H Club Knights, the school’s Environmental Advocacy Club, and the school’s Art and Design Club.

“I’d like to attend the Otis Design School in Los Angeles and major in illustration,” she said. “And I am raising a heifer in preparation for the Santa Barbara County Fair. I have had the pleasure of participating at the county fair for the past two years.”.

Among her many fundraising events, Righetti’s team plans to have several celebrity bar night at her family’s Far Western Tavern in Orcutt, where she also works part-time as a hostess and will host a dinner and trail ride at the family ranch.

“This is a new experience for me. I’m excited and nervous,” said Righetti. “I really like connecting with the community and this is a great way to get involved, a great way to give back.”

Righetti’s comes from a rodeo family. Her mother is Jana Truer, a former Miss Rodeo California. Her father is Tim Righetti, is a partner is the Far Western Tavern. She has three brothers; Ryan, 22, Stetson, 1, and Stone, who is just a few weeks old.

For more information on Righetti’s Queen Campaign, visit: https://sjhsrodeoqueen.com/

Nevaeh Rogers

Nevaeh Rogers represents the Black Student Union. Photo by Elliott Stern.

Rogers 19, represents the United Black Student Union.

She is a freshman at Hancock College majoring in Elementary Education. After completing her first two years at Hancock, Rogers plans to transfer to a four-year university.

“My passion for education and to help future generations in their educational journey stems from the education I received both in school and at home,” said Rogers.

She is a graduate of Olive Grove Academy, which she attended online for her senior year of high school after spending her first three high school years at Orcutt Academy.

“I am excited to be the Santa Maria Elks Rodeo Queen candidate representing the United Black Student Union of California this year,” said Rogers. “While working with the Black Student Union I have learned their goal of reaching out to the black youth and helping them gain more exposure to opportunities and activities in our community. As an African American who grew up here on the Central Coast with little to no exposure to the black community, this is a goal that I am proud to help support.”

Orcutt Academy and Olive Grove don’t have Black Student Union Chapters.

Rogers got involved with the group through her sister.

“My sister Nisa goes to Righetti and they asked her if she wanted to be a queen candidate,” said Rogers.  “But with school and athletics, Nisa thought she’d be too stressed out to do it so I stepped in. Because I’m 19, this is the last year I’m eligible for the competition.”

Rogers’ team is co-hosting a barbecue at the VFW with VTC.

She’ll also host a Boots and Bowling Tournament at Rancho Bowl.

“My dad works at Rancho Bowl and they all love the rodeo so they were happy to step in and help us out.”

Her father is Donnie Jones and her mother is Cami Colon.

In addition to Nisa, 15, Rogers has three brothers; Jonathan Diego, 18, Nylan Jones, 12, and Deveraux Jones, 11.

Rogers is an active volunteer with several local groups.

“I’m a volunteer soccer coach for Santa Maria Youth Soccer as well as a Girl Scout leader,” said Rogers. “I have been volunteering for as long as I can remember with the Girl Scouts and Elks Junior Antlers, and assisting in the snack bar for the local youth football games. I always enjoy helping in my community and meeting so many people who also give back. I can’t wait to see how I can help the Black Student Union and serve my community.

At press time, Rogers does not have a website set up.

“It feels like we just had our closing ceremonies (from the 2023 Elks Rodeo) and now we’re back at it again. Time flies,” said Sterling. “It’s a lot of work but also a lot of fun, especially when your heart’s in it.”

“There’s a lot of buzz, a lot of excitement for our 81st annual Santa Maria Elks Rodeo,” said Elks Recreation Vice President Scott Parsons. “We’re going to have a fantastic year. Come on out and see us.”

For tickets or more information, contact Elks Recreation at elksrec.com, by email to [email protected], or call 805-925-4125.

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