Santa Maria Elks Rodeo has a new home — and a new palm tree.

The home is at the corner of East Main Street and College Drive, behind Dino’s Deli.

It’s easy to find. Just look for their new potted palm tree that’s right outside their College Drive entrance.

“My husband (Matt Rodriguez) brought it over for us,” said rodeo volunteer AnnMarie Rodriguez.

“It’s like our own little piece of paradise,” said another volunteer, Lisa Farmer. “This is very home-like. There’s a lot less chaos.”

“This new office is so nice. It’s a nice, big space with lots of room,” said volunteer Anna Sorenson. “We had that little, tiny office and with four or five of us working in there, it was so cramped.”

The rodeo has experienced phenomenal growth over the last few years.

But as often happens with growing families, the rodeo  part of the Elks Recreation Committee  has experienced growing pains.

“We really needed a much larger space for the rodeo’s office,” said Elks Exalted Ruler Tony Dart. “Now they have significantly more space. This will be a much better place for the public to come visit or for us to bring sponsors.”

The old office was just a single room inside the Elks Lodge with a trailer outside the building that housed the team’s supplies.

The new office has a main room with individual desks for volunteers, a conference room, on-site storage and even a separate office for the rodeo’s Chief Operating Officer Tina Tonascia, an office that’s basically the same size as the entire old rodeo headquarters.

“We can now have committee meetings, training sessions, meetings with sponsors or the media in our new conference room,” said Tonascia. “We now have our own storage room  our magic room  where we keep everything we need for gift baskets so we can get what we need right away instead of having to go out back like we did at the lodge. There’s space for everyone and the most exciting thing about our new building  we have a huge front window.

“We were trying to find space at the lodge but they are out of room. So we began a search  we looked high and low  to find a home to facilitate the level of work we need to do. Our old office was amazing, it holds so many memories. We miss our old friends but, at the same time, this is exciting and we’re not that far from the lodge. We’re back over there every day because we’re family  one big family  no matter where our office is located.”

There’s a receptionist’s desk right up front with an attached display case.

“Before, we had everything stored in cabinets or outside,” said Tonascia. “Now we can have rodeo merchandise displayed properly so people can come in and buy whatever they want.”

One of the new items that will soon be featured in that case will be special rodeo belt buckles.

“Our next rodeo will be the 75th  the Diamond Anniversary Edition  and we’ll have a special 75th anniversary edition belt buckle on display and on sale,” said Tonascia.

The staff is still settling into its new space, even though the official move began in mid-October.

Even before that, plans were well underway for the 75th annual rodeo that will be held from May 31-June 3.

The team has also been working hard to prepare for the annual National Finals Rodeo (NFR) which begins Thursday and runs through Saturday, Dec. 16 at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas.

 “I’m putting together Cowboy Caviar. It’s a special salsa that showcases a taste of the Central Coast,” said AnnMarie Rodriguez. “We’ll put together gift baskets that highlight local products that will go to our sponsors at the NFR.”

“We’re packing to go to the NFR. We’re carrying on the tradition started by Clarence Minetti of ‘Hospitality Unlimited,’” said Tonascia. “We have our checklist of goals we want to accomplish at the NFR. We’re bringing in another amazing team for next year.”

That team includes the rodeo announcers, clown, music, electronic scoreboard operators, stock providers, specialty acts, judges, rodeo secretary and more. The plan for all that will be finalized during the NFR.

“We’re putting together a fabulous lineup for the 75th with a few surprises that we’ll unveil after we get back from the NFR,” said Tonascia.

“(Elks Recreation President) Phil Harwick and Tina have put together such an amazing team,” said Dart. “One of the problems working out of the lodge was that they were stuck with the lodge hours. This team works 24/7 so now they don’t have to work around lodge hours anymore.”

“We’re like butterflies coming out of our cocoon,” said Tonascia “The lodge was our cocoon and the lodge and all the officers have been very helpful in helping find this new office so we can spread our wings. We’re going to fly.”

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Senior Sports Reporter