Kenny McLean is considered by many to be the greatest Canadian Cowboy of all time.
He was born and raised in Okanagan Falls and lived in Princeton for approximately 10 years.
While in Princeton McLean lived at the Princeton Exhibition Grounds. (The large arena/barn on grounds named in his honour) He loved Paint Horses and raised them here.
Local cowboy, Bob Lind spoke fondly about his good friend Kenny McLean. “He had a tremendous amount of natural talent,” said Lind.
The two cowboys travelled the rodeo circuit together. Lind noted that if anyone was having trouble, McLean had a specific way of offering assistance.
“He would never tell you what to do,” said Lind, he would just simply say, you might try it this way…—he was always right and it stuck with me.”
Kenny McLean made a huge impact on the world of rodeo in Canada and the U.S.
He was named RCA (now called PRCA) Rookie of the Year in 1961 and in 1962 captured the Saddle Bronc Riding World Championship title. He qualified for the National Finals Rodeo nine times, winning the average title three times.
“He very rarely ever got bucked off,” said Lind, ‘he was nice to watch.”
Over the course of his career, McLean held the Canadian Saddle Bronc Champion title five times, the U.S. National Champion Bronc Rider title three times, the Canadian All-Round Rodeo Championship title four times as well as winning numerous awards and titles for calf roping and steer wrestling events.
It is estimated that McLean won 36 prize saddles, 15 watches, 100 plus trophies, and numerous prize buckles, belts and spurs.
McLean is an inductee to the Canadian Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame, the Canadian and British Columbia Sports Hall of Fame, the Indian Rodeo Hall of Fame and is a Member of the Order of Canada.
Although McLean stopped riding Saddle Bronc in the 70s, he remained close to the rodeo establishing a reputation as trainer and breeder of top quality horses. He also went on to compete in the Senior Rodeo Associations.
On July 13, 2002 while competing at the annual Taber, AB Senior Pro Rodeo, McLean suffered a major heart attack and died while on horseback.
Hundreds of his friends, family and fans attended his memorial service held in Okanagan Falls. A bronze sculpture of Kenny McLean was erected in Centennial Park to honour the memory of a much loved Canadian and American hero.
The late Kenny McLean will be inducted into the Pro-Rodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs, Colorado on July 13 of this year.