It's time for one of the hottest races of the year in Tuolumne County, that of Honorary Town Marshal of the Mother Lode Roundup.
The two-week-long marshal contest starts today and promises to be spirited as people campaign for their favorite characters and implore their friends and relatives to vote.
Votes can be cast by using ballots in The Union Democrat, or by photocopying them. Anyone can be nominated on the forms.
The lone polling place, The Union Democrat, opened this morning. Ballots can be dropped off from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays until March 8, when doors will close promptly at 5 p.m.
Until then, the ballot box is waiting to be stuffed in the newspaper lobby at 84 S. Washington St. in downtown Sonora.
The Honorary Town Marshal is not the grand marshal of the Mother Lode Roundup Parade, who is chosen each year by the Tuolumne County Sheriff's Posse.
Instead, it's a people's choice award instituted in 2000 by the Posse - organizers of the annual parade and Roundup Rodeo.
Honorary Town Marshal is an award created to honor the late Edward "Wimpy" Jones. The winner of this election will receive a badge from the Sheriff's Posse and will join the grand marshal and Roundup queen in leading the May 11 Mother Lode Roundup Parade along Washington Street in Sonora.
The town marshal was instituted after a grassroots campaign to have Jones named grand marshal of the Roundup Parade.
But by the time the campaign started, the posse had already picked its own grand marshal, longtime Sonora City Councilman Ron Stearn. So the possemen named Jones Honorary Town Marshal and presented him with a special badge.
In 2001, the posse decreed the tradition would continue, and the town marshal would be picked in an annual community election.
Last year's Honorary Town Marshal was Joseph Perez.
The marshal's election is one in a series of festivities and events leading up to the May 11 and 12 Mother Lode Roundup, which is held every year on Mother's Day weekend.
It includes an enormous parade Saturday morning, two days of professional rodeo at the Mother Lode Fairgrounds arena, a Saturday night dance, Mother's Day breakfast and more.