When local people mention Frank Kelsey’s name, it’s often in association with the
Santa Ynez Valley Youth Recreation Queen. Not because he wears a tiara, but because he has been so intensely involved for so many years behind the scenes organizing the annual fundraising campaign.
“It’s extremely rewarding to see what has been accomplished with the money that has been raised,” Kelsey said.
Since the beginning of the campaign, which started in 1955 as part of the Santa Maria Elks Rodeo Queen Contest, the Santa Ynez Valley “queens” have raised more than $3 million for local youth recreation programs and facilities, Kelsey noted.
“The many queen families, board members and involved valley residents should be very proud to be a part of the successful ongoing campaign,” he added.
When Kelsey was chosen as this year’s Santa Ynez Valley Man of the Year, he said it was a pleasant surprise.
“Wasn’t something I sought after, not why I volunteer, but it’s sure nice to be recognized,” Kelsey said.
Kelsey moved from the Los Angeles area to Santa Maria in 1949 and ended up in Solvang with his family in 1955. His father bought the Chevrolet dealership, then named Solvang Garage, on the northeast corner of Alisal Road and Mission Drive where Svendsgaard’s Lodge now sits. The dealership moved to Buellton in 1968.
Young Frank attended Solvang Elementary and Santa Ynez Valley Union High School, where he played football, basketball and baseball. He held several student body offices and was president of the Future Farmers of America for three years.
After high school Kelsey attended Hancock College, where he continued playing football, then continued both his studies and athletics at Claremont Men’s College and Cal State Los Angeles, where he graduated with his bachelor of arts in business administration in 1967.
He married his childhood sweetheart, Kathy Lunde, in 1966 in Solvang. They have three children, Suzzanne, Janeen and Frank.
After college Kelsey and his brother Leonard bought the Chevrolet dealership from their father in 1968 and ran it until they sold it in 1991 to Mike and Tresha Sell, who renamed it Rio Vista Chevrolet.
Kelsey spends his retirement happily with his four grandchildren and on the golf course as much as he can, when he isn’t volun-teering as president of Youth Rec, working on a queen’s campaign or working with the Youth Rec board to evaluate applications for grant funding.
“All the money (raised by queen campaigns) has been spent on youth recreation facilities and programs in the Santa Ynez Valley,” Kelsey said.
Just recently, some of that money replaced the weight room equipment, baseball and softball fields and tennis courts at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School. Some of it also went to the ball field at Sunny Fields Park in Solvang, and some of it has been spent at just about every school in the valley.
After this year’s campaign, the Youth Rec board will again evaluate which applicants need the most support to decide where the next grants will go, Kelsey concluded.