DR. KEN MACRAE
Inducted in 2012
In a recent interview, Dr. Ken MacRae reflected on his three-decade service to the Ellensburg Rodeo. “Well, the Ellensburg Rodeo was, after my family and veterinary medicine, the most important thing my life,” he recalled. “We directors all took our responsibility very seriously. The all-important goal was to present the very best rodeo in our power.”
“Ken MacRae came on board and he cared about the cowboy’s side and sort of educated us about the cowboy’s needs,” remembered retired Ellensburg Rodeo Board member Allen Faltus in an interview with the late John Ludtka. At its inception in 1923, the Ellensburg Rodeo Board of Directors was a diverse group, with ranchers and farmers serving alongside businessmen and other town-dwelling professionals. As a ranch-raised Idahoan, college bull-riding champion and roper, and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Ken MacRae brought a varied and unique perspective to long and distinguished service as Arena Director of the Ellensburg Rodeo.
Born November 11, 1934, to Bill and Mae MacRae, Ken MacRae was raised on the MacRae Sheep Company’s cattle, sheep, and agricultural ranch in Paul, Idaho. Bill died in 1944, Mae later remarried, and the family moved to another remote locale, the historic Kane Ranch, a range cattle and hay operation near Salmon, Idaho. They later relocated to northeast Washington State, where Ken finished high school. “I had my own horse at an early age about 4, and that interest has continued to the present,” Ken recalls. “I started competing in amateur rodeos while in high school and finally retired from Steer Roping at the end of the season in 2010.”
Entering Washington State College (now WSU) in Pullman as an undergraduate in 1953, Ken joined the rodeo team, winning the 1956 Pacific Coast Region Bull Riding Championship; going on to the College National Finals Rodeo in Colorado Springs, he finished 3rd in the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association standings.
Ken’s rodeo career continued as he earned his RCA (Rodeo Cowboys Association, now PRCA) card and transitioned from roughstock to timed events—steer, team, and tie-down (calf) roping competitions. Over four decades, he won titles and day money at most of the northwest rodeos, including Joseph, Eligin, and Pendleton (OR), Eaton (CO), and Walla Walla. He qualified for the Columbia River Circuit Finals (in Steer Roping) several years, including 2006 when he was 72 years of age. Ken won the year-end Championship in the Northwest Steer Roping Association in 1978 and 1989 and also won go-rounds and titles in Senior competitions. “My best memories,” MacRae says, are friendships with “many of the people that have made up the rodeo world for three generations.”
After earning his B.S. in Animal Science in 1957, Ken married Sandra Selden and entered WSC’s Veterinary College, where he earned a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree in 1961. Then the MacRae family—including children John, Alan, and Mary—moved to Ellensburg where Ken worked with, and later assumed, the large animal practice of Dr. Leonard Newman. He successfully practiced Veterinary Medicine until his retirement in 1997 and still has hundreds of former clients and friends scattered across Kittitas County.
It did not take the Ellensburg Rodeo Board long to tap the many talents of Dr. Ken MacRae. Ken joined the Board in 1969 and assumed the vital post of Arena Director in 1971, following in the footsteps of the local legends Art Driver and Tex Taliaferro. MacRae served as Arena Director for 29 years, longer than anyone else in the history of the Ellensburg Rodeo.
As Arena Director, MacRae pursued the “cowboy side” and “cowboy needs” Allen Faltus referred to above. Alongside saddle bronc riding, rodeo experts call roping events “ranch related” because they utilize historic skills that were, and still are, necessary for working ranch cowboys. MacRae aimed to increase the Ellensburg Rodeo’s connection to these ranch related events.
He led the 1978 volunteer effort to upgrade and relocate the roping chutes to the center of the west grandstands. Soon thereafter, in 1981, he advocated and won inclusion of Team Roping as part of Ellensburg Rodeo program. Like Team Roping, Steer Roping is a skill built on range cattle droving techniques; in 1988, Steer Roping became a moneyed event at the Ellensburg Rodeo, scheduled annually during morning “slack” roping and attracting steer roper super stars like Guy Allen and Trevor Brazile. Allen is an ERHOF Inductee and Brazile will be inducted into ERHOF alongside MacRae on August 30.
On the roughstock side of the arena, MacRae recalls, “An important breakthrough came when we could afford to hire multiple stock contractors to each bring smaller numbers of their best horses and bulls, stock that the best cowboys would all have a chance to place when they drew them. We were also fortunate to be able to hire the best bullfighters and clowns because they all wanted to work at Ellensburg.”
Dr. Ken MacRae served as President of the Ellensburg Rodeo in 1982-83. In 1998, Dr. MacRae was honored by his peers to be chosen the PRCA National Committee Man of the Year.
Throughout this time, Dr. Ken MacRae trained his own roping horses. Indeed, Trevor Brazile won most of the money for his 2006 and 2007 World Steer Roping titles riding “Roan Ranger,” a horse he bought from Ken, who raised and trained him.
Dr. Ken MacRae retired from the Rodeo Board following the 2000 rodeo and, as noted, retired from professional competition in 2011.
Ken MacRae also remains active as a longtime member of the Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame Board of Directors. “This is one of the good old rodeos; people think of it as their dad’s rodeo,” Ken told the late John Ludtka in an interview. “The future looks bright.”