Chuckwagon Legend Ralph Vigen Honored With The Calgary Stampede Pioneers Of Rodeo

2017 Calgary Stampede Pioneers of Rodeo Award Recipients
L-R: Calgary Stampede Rodeo Committee Chairman John Rule, Calgary Stampede Chuckwagon Committee Chairman Michael Piper, Chanse Vigen accepting on behalf of his grandfather the late Ralph Vigen, Judy Kesler accepting on behalf of her husband the late Greg Kesler, Greg Cassidy, Dana Peers, Calagry Stampede first vice-chairman 
Photo By Billy Melville

The Calgary Stampede handed out it's prestigious Pioneer's of Rodeo Awards July 10, 2017 at the Rotary House on Stampede Park. the class of 2017 included former Chuckwagon Driver Ralph Vigen, Timed Event Cowboy Greg Cassidy, and Rodeo Cowboy/Stock Contractor Greg Kesler.

Ralph Vigen started in the chuckwagon business in 1949 as an outrider for Jack Lauder, and competed at the Calgary Stampede for the first time as a chuckwagon driver at the Calgary Stampede that year driving Jack Lauder’s second outfit. He assembled his first outfit in 1955, and had one of the most remarkable careers the sport of chuckwagon racing had ever seen.

Between 1958 and 1967 Ralph Vigen had five top five finishes at the Rangeland Derby including a pair of runner-up finishes in 1959 and 1963. He won his first World Chuckwagon Championship in 1963 driving the Claggett Brothers Outfit, and after the 1969 season he decided to retire.

Retirement lasted just half a season when, just prior to the 1970 Ponoka Stampede, fellow driver Tom Dorchester injured himself in an off track incident. Ralph Vigen drove Dorchester's second wagon – the Bill MacDonald outfit - won the Ponoka Stampede, and drove it at the 1970 Calgary Stampede as well, and got Ralph Vigen Back In the Chuckwagon game.

In 1971 Ralph Vigen joined forces with Max Sutherland and had an incredible run of success. He won the Calgary Stampede in 1972, 1976 and 1985, and claimed four more World Chuckwagon Championships in 1972, 1975, 1976 and 1978.  Ralph Vigen made history when he became the first chuckwagon driver to win 5 World Chuckwagon Championships.

Ralph Vigen passed away suddenly at home on December 28, 1991 at the age of 69.

As the son of rodeo legend Reg Kesler, Greg Kesler grew up around rodeo and and developed his skills as a pick-up-mam, bareback rider, steer wretler, wild cow milker and wild horse racer. He won the Calgary Stampede Wild Cow Milking Championship five times with Lorne Wells and the Wild Horse Race Championship seven times with Ernie Dorin, as well as being a pick-up man at the Calgary Stampede for many years. He formed Kesler Rodeo in 1974 and earned 10 World Titles with some of his horses such as Cool Alley, Painted Smile, Alley Ways and Alley Cat. Between Cool Alley and Alley Ways, the two horses won the Saddle Bronc Award at the Calgary Stampede seven consecutive years. Kesle stock has won numerous stock awards in the Pro Rodeo Cowboys Assoc., Canadian Pro Rodeo Assoc. Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, Canadian Finals Rodeo, and other major rodeos like the Calgary Stampede. Greg Kesler passed away on February 1st, 2016  at the age of 70.

Greg Cassidy won the Canadian Steer Wrestling Championship four times in 1985, 1987, 1988 and 2000. He claimed the Canadian Hi-Point Championship in 1987 and 1988 and won the Canadian Tie Down Roping Championship in 1984. Greg is the only man to win the Calgary Stampede's $50,000.00 Bonus in two events - Tie Down Roping in 1984 and Steer Wrestling in 1999 and 2001. He was named the Canadian Pro Rodeo Association's Cowboy of the Year in 1992.

Billy Melville


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