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The First Rodeo

Elks Recreation was formed by B.P.O.E. #1538 on November 18, 1943. Its first activity was a dance held on December 4th at the Veterans Memorial Building with a horse as a door prize. With C.C. Marinus Nielsen as chairman, a large committee was named by Exalted Ruler Fred O. Sherrill to handle the dance. Other committee members included: Andrew B. “Andy” Hanson, John F. Adam, Frank W. Shields, M.W. Hickman, Roy Gallison, Oliver Ames, J.S. McDonell, Henry L. Tilley, Charles Ferini, Frank Tognazzini, William Luton, Dominic “Nick” Ardantz, Milo Ferini, P.H. Mahoney, Charles Maretti, Charles Campodonico, Charles Cossa, R.F. Knotts, Floyd Watson, Al Stone, B. Russ Griffith, William Snowden, C.L. Kyle, E.T. Sanders, and Kenneth E. Trefts.

The dance was a success, netting $1177, and the lodge officers decided to hold a rodeo, a possibility which had been mentioned in a November 19th newspaper article.

Who started the rodeo? This question was posed many times over the years. Much credit should certainly go to 1943-1944 Exalted Ruler Fred Sherrill, the December dance committee and the 1944-45 Exalted Ruler B.R. Griffith who was administrative chairman for the first, and many other rodeos, over the years. The cooperation and guidance of the Santa Maria Valley Roping Club and its members also provided major contributions to the success of the rodeo.

A.B. Hanson, Grand Marshal of the 21st Annual Rodeo and Parade and first president of the Elks Recreation Foundation, discussed who he thought had started the rodeo in a June 5th, 1964, edition of the Santa Maria Times. Hanson said, “The whole idea of putting on this show was the brainchild of Frank Shields. It seemed that Mrs. Haslam, when she bought the horse, had a little girl in her arms, not much over a year old, and she wanted the horse for the girl to ride when she grew old enough. Later, after realizing how many years would pass before this would happen and her already mounting feed bills, she offered the horse for sale for $150. Frank Shields heard about this and approached me, ‘Let’s buy that colt from Mrs. Haslam, raffle it off, make enough money to hold a rodeo and race meet, and give all the profits to youth recreation programs in the area,’ Shields had said. I told him the idea sounded good. We interested the officers of the Elks Lodge in the deal, purchased the horse and started selling tickets. I can’t remember who put up the money for the horse, but it was probably on the cuff.”

According to Hanson, they almost had a catastrophe while tickets for the horse were being sold. “The little filly became very sick and the vet almost despaired of her life. Believe me, there were many Elks praying for her to live, and our prayers were answered. She recovered and was in perfect health when we had the drawing which was won by Leo Scaroni.”

It was reported that “Scaroni eventually gave it to his son-in-law, Frank Harrington, who was then residing in San Luis Obispo. His thirteen-year-old son, John Harrington, was considered to be the horse’s owner.

First Rodeo, June 3rd and 4th, 1944

The first Elks Rodeo was referred to as the “Elks Recreational Foundation Benefit Wild West Show and Racing Meet.” In April, 1943, the Santa Maria Roping Club had secured an understanding with the city allowing them to present public programs in the fairground arena and the club had held several successful events. With the Elks’ decision to hold a rodeo, the Santa Maria Valley Roping Club requested, and was granted, permission to allow Elks Recreation to move its rodeo arena and chutes from the southeast corner of the fairgrounds to the space in front of the existing arena.

In mid-April, 1944, with Buck Havercroft as president of the roping club and Dr. Lloyd M. Clemons in charge, the relocation of equipment was initiated.

First Rodeo Committee

B. Russ Griffith was chairman of the general administrative committee. Other administrative committee members included: Elmer Griset, James D. Macdonald, Past Exalted Ruler (PER) Fred Sherrill, PER C.C.M. Nielsen, John Adam, C.L. Kyle, and T.A. Twitchell. Secretary Jesse H. Chambers of the chamber of commerce was master of ceremonies and was also in charge of arranging decorations for the show.

Advisors Andy Hanson, Sherrill, H.L. Tilley, Twitchell, Clemons, and Chambers assisted Frank Shields, chairman of the advisory and finance committee. Advertising and publicity were handled by chairman G.E. Secour, Leonard Petersen, Kyle, Ernest Sanders, Nielsen, Griffith, Ray Lonborg, E.W. Griset, J.S. McDonell, and R.W. Patton.

Tilley and Sherrill were in charge of ticket sales and seating; Hanson was in charge of track events, purses, and entries; and the wild west events, purses and entries, were handled by members of the Santa Maria Roping Club in cooperation with the administrative committee.

Trefts was chairman of parking and he was assisted by several others including R. Lonborg; concessions were handled by chairman Griset with Patton and others assisting; Cliff Hicks was in charge of the parade and banks; Leon Vaughn was chairman of amplification; and Macdonald was chairman of policing and ambulances.

The flyer describing the Wild West Show and Racing Meet listed Noah Henry as arena director, Dr. Lloyd M. Clemons as manager, and Curtis Tunnell as announcer. The event was sanctioned by the Turtle Association Club which became Rodeo Cowboys of America in 1945 and, later, the Professional Cowboys of America.

Judges were: T.M. Parks, Paul Fox, Ben Wiley; timers included: Carl Carlson, D.A. Nolan and George Scott; H.J. Woods was race starter; Mrs. Clifford Hicks and S.F. Larsen were secretaries; and master of ceremonies was J.H. Chambers.

Clarence Minetti worked the arena as “pick-up man,” the first of his many years of rodeo involvement in different capacities.

Rodeo Festivities

Dr. Clemons, on giving an update, announced that the two-day event would take place on the Santa Maria Fairgrounds on June 3rd and 4th, and that there were many entries for the Elks program. The event would be preceded by a mounted parade forming at the Veterans Memorial Building. There would be an exhibition of bull fighting by Mexican National, Jose Eorras, who was said to be a well-known matador in his own country. A roping contest would take place between contestants entered by the local police and the state highway patrol. Bronc riding, bareback riding, bull dogging, calf roping, steer stopping, and team roping were also on the program.

It was announced that there would be classes for stock horses, “musical chairs,” potato races, stake races, harness races and a number of additional special events.

A Successful Event

The event was considered a success, having cleared $2386.50. A reported 2,000 were in attendance on Saturday while 3,000 attended Sunday’s program. According to reports, the shows ran “with clock-like precision.” An unusual activity took place on Saturday when an unruly bull broke through the fence at the north end of the arena after being roped by one of the riders and, on Sunday, another bull broke through a fence and was captured by four ropers in the parking lot. …

Dr. Lloyd M. Clemons and the Santa Maria Valley Roping Club were in charge of arena events; Jerry Tyler and Mrs. Archie Soto were timers, assisted by Vic Withrow and Mrs. F.A. Havercroft, club secretary, who recorded the results.

The Elks Horn reported the meet a success. A.B. Hanson presented cups for track events to Melby Jewelers, Ida Mae Johnson Ladies Wear, George M. Scott Insurance, Elks Lodge #1538, and printer E. Secour.

With a commitment to devote their net proceeds to the “youth of the community,” the Elks had completed their first event. They were on their way.

Source Information

Excerpts from the Santa Mara Elks Rodeo and Parade: 1940-2003 by Ted Scott and Olive Press Publications
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