Kenny McLean was born May 17, 1939 in Penticton and resided in Okanagan Falls. He started breaking colts for his dad when he was just 12 years old and went on to rodeo competitions at the age of 17. He joined the Canadian Rodeo Cowboys Association (now the C.P.R.A.) in 1959, and in his first year of professional rodeo competition, won the first of his record three consecutive Canadian Saddle Bronc Championships. In 1961, he was named Rookie-of-the-Year in the United States, and in 1962, McLean rode his way to the World Saddle Bronc title.
He later won two more Canadian Bronc riding titles in 1968 and 1969.
McLean was the Canadian All-Around champion in 1967 through 1969, and again in 1972, the year he also won the Calf Roping and Steer Wrestling titles and was runner-up in the Saddle Bronc event. The BC cowboy also earned the High Point award in 1967 and 1968, and still holds the Canadian record for most major championships – 14. He was the first recipient of the Bill Linderman Award which goes to rodeo’s finest all-around contestants, who qualify by winning at least $1,000 in each of three events including a roughstock and timed event.
Kenny McLean was inducted into the Canadian Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame and was the only rodeo cowboy to be inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame. He also received Canada’s’ highest honor, the Order of Canada, again the only cowboy to receive such an honor. He was inducted into the Rodeo Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City where he was selected by the RHS Board of Directors to receive the 2005 Directors Choice Award.
During his life Kenny McLean sponsored and ran rodeo schools, particularly for the young, training many future champions and many champions returned time after time to improve their skills at the sport. He encouraged young competitor’s right up until he passed away on July 13, 2002. He died of a heart attack while on horseback at the National Senior Pro Rodeo at Taber, Alberta, 63 years and 60 days from the day he was born on a ranch near Okanagan Falls, British Columbia.
Nearly eight years after his final ride, Canadian Rodeo legend Kenny McLean was back in the saddle again. A life sized bronze statue of McLean on the great bucking horse Warpaint was unveiled in his home town of Okanagan Falls May 8, 2010 in Centennial Park
Kenny McLean’s family has directed the Meyer Family Vineyards donation of $5000 be awarded to a BC High School Rodeo Scholarship to support young rodeo riders.
Kenny McLean photo compliments of “Okanagan Archive Trust Society”