By Raiza Giorgi
This is the second year for Santa Ynez Valley kid Caleb Moon of being the Junior Barrelman for the Santa Maria Elks Rodeo, even though there wasn’t an actual rodeo to be had. This year they are holding the Christmas in the Country, a drive-thru holiday light experience at the Elks Rodeo Grounds Event Center in Santa Maria.Caleb, 10, of Buellton and a student at Solvang Elementary School, takes his job of getting a barrel of laughs seriously, and for a good cause as he will be “Stuffing the Stocking” to raise funds for Golden Circle of Champions. Organizations from surrounding local communities set up light displays for families to enjoy on their 107 acres at the Elks Rodeo grounds. There will also be chances to see Santa and Mrs. Claus and kids are welcome to bring their Letters to Santa to drop in their special mailbox that goes directly to the North Pole. Kids might even get a response if they put a return address, according to event officials.
Caleb said he is hoping to match his contribution from last year, as Caleb raised more than $2,500 making custom blankets for the children going through cancer treatments. The blankets and donations were presented to 20 children from Golden Circle of Champions at the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) in Las Vegas last December. The blankets were red, white and blue to match the patriotic theme of his Junior Barrelman face paint and rodeo outfit.
Through donations and fundraising efforts, support is provided directly to the families to fulfill their most urgent needs: paying bills, buying medicine and caring for their families.
Golden Circle is a nonprofit founded in 2016 that partners with the Santa Maria Elks Rodeo. Golden Circle provides funds to help local children battling pediatric cancer and after the first year they were contacted by the NFR to expand their program.
The Santa Maria Elks Rodeo holds a special place in Caleb’s family. His grandmother, Mindi Jaeger Christian, competed in the 1972 queen contest and his mother Robyn Christian Moon was the 2001 Santa Maria Elks Rodeo Queen. This year his cousin Kayden Sorensen is the Miss Mini Rodeo, which makes the event even more special to his family.
“As special as that is for Kayden to be Miss Mini Rodeo, it was even more special that I got to be the one who placed the coveted Montana Silversmiths crown on her head 19 years after I received mine for 2001 Santa Maria Elks Rodeo Queen,” Moon said.
To learn more about Golden Circle and this year’s events at the NFR, visit their Facebook page.
For information on the Christmas in the Country which will go to Jan. 3, every Wednesday through Sunday, visit www.elksrec.com. Tickets are $40 and no vehicles taller than 11.5 feet are permitted, as are no buses or motorhomes.