By Raiza Giorgi
“Now that was a cowboy horse parade,” said Grant Carmichael of Buellton, who had taken his two children to watch hundreds of cowboys ride up Alisal Road to Mission Santa Ines.
For the eighth year in a row, the Rancheros Visitadores partnered with Wrangler Jeans and the Tough Enough to Wear Pink Foundation and wore pink shirts in their parade May 4 to raise funds for the Cancer Foundation of Santa Barbara in support of breast cancer programs at the Ridley-Tree Cancer Center at Sansum Clinic.
One of the riders showed off his roping skills as he swung big loops around him and his horse. The crowds cheered as he made his way up the street.
The Visitadores group rides through Solvang after the Kentucky Derby broadcast each year to receive a blessing at Mission Santa Ines before riding to its group campground near Lake Cachuma. People line the streets to watch the hundreds of riders make their way up to the mission.
Many local men have been members since the group started in 1930, but some members have come from many states and several foreign countries.
The first ride was organized by John J. Mitchell, co-founder of National Air Transport, which became United Airlines. He married meat-packing heiress Lolita Armour and owned the 6,000-acre Juan y Lolita Rancho. Mitchell and his friends hitched up their wagons and rode horses to Mattei’s Tavern in Los Olivos the first year, according to the group’s records.
A few notable past Visitadores have been President Ronald Reagan, Gene Autry, Walt Disney and Bob Hope.
Through the combined efforts of Wrangler Jeans, Tough Enough to Wear Pink and the Rancheros Visitadores, more than $1 million has been contributed to the Cancer Foundation of Santa Barbara since 2012. The funds benefit breast cancer programs including clinical research trials, wellness classes and support programs, hereditary cancer risk counseling and nurse navigation.
These services are available to all breast cancer patients who live in Santa Barbara County regardless of where they receive treatment or their ability to pay.
“The Rancheros have been returning to Santa Barbara County and the Santa Ynez Valley for 87 years. Though our members come from far and wide, this is the Rancheros’ home, and we have found a cause we believe in. We understand it is important to give back to the community we return to year after year,” said Ranchero Steve Beneto.
The Ridley-Tree Cancer Center’s Solvang office at 2040 Viborg Road, Suite 140, provides Santa Ynez residents with access to physicians who have studied, worked and taught in the finest cancer centers in the world, including Harvard, Sloan-Kettering, UCLA and the National Institutes of Health.
To learn more, visit the Cancer Foundation of Santa Barbara at www.cfsb.org or the Ridley-Tree Cancer Center at www.ridleytreecc.org.