By Raiza Giorgi

Saddling up a horse and riding out on the open range, spending the day checking cattle and fixing fences, is not a lifestyle that many get to live these days, so rancher Paul Righetti of Santa Maria feels blessed he gets to live it and pass it on to his children.

“I enjoy this lifestyle every day. It isn’t always easy, but knowing that my cattle feed many people, including my family, is something I cherish,” Righetti said.

Righetti has been named the 2018 Honored Vaquero for the Santa Ynez Valley Historical Museum’s 34th annual Vaquero Show and Western Collectible Sale on Nov. 9 – 11.

A fourth-generation Santa Maria rancher, Righetti was born in 1948 and is a graduate of Righetti High School (named after his uncle) and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. His great-grandfather started the Righetti cattle operation in 1886 and Paul took over the enterprise when his father died unexpectedly at a young age in 1979.

In 1970, Paul married Susan Minetti (whose parents Clarence and Rosalie founded the Far Western Tavern), joining two celebrated Santa Maria families by marriage.

Most of Righetti’s family members and in-law relations are involved in the ranching enterprise including his son, Tim, and daughter, Renee. The family is dedicated to ranching techniques and strategies as an integral part of their business plan. Paul’s commitment to the vaquero way of honoring the land and his family shine through his entire life.

“My day usually starts around 7 a.m. and there’s always something to do on the ranch, from fixing fences or water lines to moving cattle. It’s what I’ve always known,” Righetti said.

The Vaquero Show and Western Sale at the museum features exhibitor displays and booths.

The weekend celebration honors the lifestyle, culture and renowned horsemanship of the California vaquero (cowboy) which evolved into a distinctive style of apparel, tack, saddles and other unique equipment. All proceeds from the Vaquero Show and Western Collectible Sale benefit the nonprofit historical museum in its mission of creating a better future for the Santa Ynez Valley by inspiring generations to find wonder and meaning in the past.

Jim Stuckenberg has been selected as 2018 Vaquero Artist of the Year. He is known as one of the last true “cowboy artists,” with his work as widely recognized and sought after as Frederic Remington and C.M Russell.

Stuckenberg was born deaf in 1943 on a farm in St. Louis. He learned to read lips at 4 years old, graduated from high school and received a degree in animal science from Fresno State University.

His love of horses led him to work for famed racehorse trainer D. Wayne Lukas, and he began dabbling with watercolor painting and eventually moved into Western sculpture, oils, pen and ink, and pencil artwork. Stuckenberg’s artistic career has expanded exponentially over the decades, with many private and corporate collectors including Ronald Reagan, Fess Parker, the Hearst family, and Wells Fargo. His work is shown in galleries and museums nationwide.

Advance ticket sales for the Vaquero preview party, dinner and auction are online at; at the Santa Ynez Valley Historical Museum, 3596 Sagunto St.; or by calling 805-688-7889. Tickets for the Saturday and Sunday Vaquero Show and live vaquero demonstrations are $5 per day and may be purchased online or at the gate.

For more information, visit the 34th annual Vaquero Show and Western Collectible Sale’s Facebook Page or


Schedule of Events


Friday, Nov. 9

5 p.m.: Preview Party, dinner and auction – Viewing of displays and an opportunity for early shopping while sampling appetizers, local wines and cocktails while listening to music performed by Sam Kulchin. An exhibit of the work of cowboy artist Jack Swanson (1927-2014) will be shown for the first time.

6:30 p.m.: Gala Dinner – Presentation of the 2018 Honored Vaquero Paul Righetti and artist Jim Stuckenberg as well as a spirited live auction of items donated by members and local businesses. Dinner catered by The Chef’s Touch will be served in the museum’s courtyard. Friday evening tickets are $125 for museum members and $150 for others. Tickets include preview party, dinner, a drink ticket, auction and live entertainment.


Saturday, Nov. 10 

9 a.m. – 5 p.m.: Vaquero Show & Sale at the Historical Museum. A one-day pass for $5 is available at the gate.

11 a.m.: Live vaquero demonstration by Jeff Mundell and 2012 Vaquero of the Year Bruce Sandifer.

11 a.m. – 2 p.m.: Cowboy barbecue sandwich lunch and cocktails available for purchase.

Noon – 4 p.m.: Musical entertainment by Brad Cooper in the courtyard.

5 p.m.: Exhibits close until 10 a.m. Sunday.


Sunday, Nov. 11

10 a.m. – 3 p.m.: Vaquero Show & Sale at the Historical Museum. A one-day pass for $5 is available at the gate.

11 a.m.: Live vaquero demonstration by Jeff Derby and Bruce Sandifer, 2012 Vaquero of the Year.

11 a.m. – 2 p.m.: Cowboy barbecue sandwich lunch and cocktails available for purchase.

Noon – 3 p.m.: Musical entertainment by Owen Johnson in the courtyard

3 p.m.: Show closes