July 12th, 2024

Stock contractor Duane Kesler named Whoop-Up Days parade marshal

By Lethbridge Herald on June 18, 2024.

Rodeo stock contractor Duane Kesler speaks to reporters Monday at the Agri-Food Hub and Trade Centre after being announced as honorary marshal for the 2024 Whoop-Up Days parade in August. Herald photo by Al Beeber

Al Beeber – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – abeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

Rodeo has long been part of southern Alberta’s western culture and on Monday, a member of a leading family in rodeo was named honourary parade marshal of the 2024 Whoop-Up Days parade Monday.

Duane Kesler is a third-generation rodeo stock contractor, son of Greg and grandson of Reg who started the family’s stock contracting business decades ago.

Paul Kingsmith, director of community engagement for the Exhibition, introduced Kesler to media inside the Agri-Food Hub and Trade Centre, calling him “someone that has contributed to the community, contributed to the organization.’

He said Kesler “has undisputedly made this community a better place and has made the sport of rodeo a much better place. And has been a longtime friend of the Lethbridge & District Exhibition,” Kingsmith said.

The Keslers have been rodeo stock contracting since the 1940s and provided the stock at the Whoop-Up Days rodeo for many years. Duane Kesler, in fact, has been the stock contractor for Whoop-Up Days since the rodeo returned in 2022 and has supplied animals to the Canadian Finals Rodeo and National Finals Rodeo and been named stock contractor of the year in the Canadian rodeo circuit “more times than we can count including the last two years consecutively,” Kingsmith added.

 Kesler, said Kingsmith, “really embodies the spirit of “Grow Up Western” which is the parade theme this year and we are absolutely thrilled that Duane will be the one leading our parade on August 20 to kick off Whoop-Up Days.”

Kesler said the honour was overwhelming, noting the rodeo this year will be bigger and better than ever.

Kesler recalled how his grandpa Reg started riding broncos in the mid 1930s and had a real interest for livestock. He felt there was an opportunity to take rodeo to a new level so he started supplying stock throughout North America from Dallas, Texas in the south to Fort St. John, B.C. in the north.

He said transporting stock was more difficult in those days than now and it took a lot of dedication.

Kesler said the relationship with the animals is important for his family.

“They’re very intelligent animals and we think that a relationship with each and every animal is key” to success, he added.

Like a good hockey coach, a contractor knows what characteristics his players – in this case the stock – have and knows when an animal needs a break and what the needs of the animals are.

Without that, a contractor won’t be very successful in the industry for very long, added Kesler, who is well known for his commitment to animal welfare.

Kesler said he and Whoop-Up Days rodeo producer Kynan Vine have had a relationship for three decades and Kesler knows his expectations while Vine knows what Kesler “is going to bring to the table and that’s I think what really makes a successful event when you have a group of people – whoever they are – all on the same page moving forward. And I really believe in anything you do that’s the key to success.”

Kesler said the rodeo industry has faced challenges with hay now costing $300 a tonne compared to $40 a tonne years ago but he believes everything will work out at the end of the day.

Kesler said Exhibition Park has been based around a western tradition for a long time, a tradition he wants to help continue.

“The Lethbridge and District Exhibition was built on agriculture,” he added.

The Kesler’s are based at both Magrath where Duane was raised and also Raymond.

The parade will start at 9 a.m. on Aug. 20 at Park Place Shopping Mall. Applications for parade entries are open until Aug. 1. Interested participants can apply at whoopupdays.ca

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