Darrell Cholach - Contestant
Darrell Cholach was born in 1963 and was raised southwest of Valleyview. The first rodeo he competed in was the 1975 TeePee Creek Stampede. He went from being a steer rider to a bull rider. The late Kenton Randall entered Darrell in the Bareback Riding at a bush rodeo north of High Prairie. Darrell was primarily a bull rider but, thanks to the late Verne Franklin, would get on the odd bareback horse for an exhibition ride.
In 1983 Darrell would enter both the Bull Riding and the Bareback Riding at NRA, FCA, LRA, MRA and CCA rodeos, travelling from northern BC to Manitoba. After winning the CCA Bareback title in 1983, he decided to turn professional.
He qualified for his first CFR in 1986. He competed in the Olympic rodeo in Calgary in 1988 and again in Salt Lake City in 2002. He also traveled to Brazil and Australia to compete. In 1989 he won the Copenhagen/Dodge Tour Championship, which earned him a new Dodge truck. He won the BC Circuit title in 1994. In 1995 he won the $50,000 at the Calgary Stampede. Darrell qualified for the CFR 16 times in total, winning the average title in Bareback in 1992, 1996 and 1999. It was in 1993, 1996 and 1999 that he won his 3 Canadian Bareback Championships.
While competing, he served 5 years on the CPRA board of directors. Darrell was always willing to participate in the Black Tie Bingo, Rodeo Magic and school visits. After his competition years, Darrell judged professional rodeo. In 2006 he was named Cowboy of the Year.
Dave Garstad - Contestant
Dave Garstad was raised on the family’s farm north of Veteran. He was the 8th child in a family of 9. Dave, as well as twin brother Mark and older brother Gid were all well known in rodeo.
George Myren signed a release form, allowing Dave to start competing. He rode broncs on the amateur circuit in 1959 and within 3 months he had earned enough to turn professional. Dave rode bulls, bareback horses and he steer wrestled. He kept in shape and was likely the first bull rider to do pre-ride stretches and exercises.
Dave Garstad won the title of Canadian Champion Bull Rider in 1967. He was 3 times the Southern Circuit leader and he often traveled to compete in the U.S. Dave was always appreciative and known to be a gentleman.
At the age of 37, Dave qualified for the CFR in 1980. It was at those finals where Dave lost sight in one eye, due to injury. This ended his rodeo career.
Dave Garstad said, “The onus is on ourselves to win at whatever we choose, because nobody is going to win it for us.”
Chester Shoal Bandit - Animal
Chester Skoal Bandit
Chester Skoal Bandit was born in 1990 on the Art Klassen ranch north of Jenner, AB. He grew to be a 1300 pound chestnut gelding that was first tried in the bronc riding. He fought the halter so much that he was moved into the bareback string.
In the late 1990’s he was hauled throughout Canada and the US, bucking at the big rodeos including Austin, San Antonio, Houston and Denver. He would often be drawn 30 to 35 trips in a season.
In 1997 Chester was voted the Canadian Champion Bareback Horse. In 1998, 1999, 2002 and 2003 he was voted Bareback Horse of the CFR which earned Big Stone Rodeo a new Dodge truck each of those years. In 2002 Chester was also voted Bareback Horse of the NFR.
At the 2014 CFR, Chester Skoal Bandit was turned into the arena allowing fans have another look at him, as he was recognized for his induction into the Canadian Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame.
Neil McKinnon - Builder
Neil McKinnon was born in 1926 in Calgary. With an interest in cattle and horses he developed LK Ranches and XL Beef. Neil was instrumental in the organization of the rodeo in Bassano, seeing it grow from amateur to professional status. He supplied chutes, panels, manpower, bulls and calves.
To help contestants get to all of the rodeos on the same weekend as Bassano, Neil supplied an airplane to pilot Dale Trottier and his travelling partners. Demand increased and Neil supplied a second plane. From 1973 to 1976 he coordinated the Bassano Pro Indoor Rodeo.
In the 1960’s and 1970’s Neil sent part of his ranching crew to assist with the Calgary Stampede rodeo. Working with Kesler Rodeo, Neil supplied bucking bulls to the Calgary Stampede and the Canadian Finals Rodeo. He owned Canadian Champion Bucking Bull, “Black Bart.”
Neil was a driving force in getting pro rodeo to Strathmore and XL Foods has been a major sponsor of the Strathmore Heritage Days.
Neil McKinnon taught his family the importance of being a gentleman cowboy, being honest, fair, respectful and kind.
Lee Laskosky - Contestant
Lee Laskosky was born in 1958 and raised on the family farm near Viking, AB. Bill Cikiluk inspired Lee to start rodeoing. Mac Mackie from nearby Kinsella was another mentor to him.
Lee saw success on the amateur circuit and in 1982 he turned to the professional ranks. He competed extensively for 15 years, winning the Canadian Steer Wrestling Championship in 1984 and 1986. In 1986 he won the $50,000 at the Calgary Stampede. He also was a Tie-Down Roper which put him in contention for the High Point Award. Four times he qualified for the Steer Wrestling at the National Finals Rodeo.
In 1993 he went into the NFR as the season leader of the world. Lee’s horse “Hammer” was the 2004 Steer Wrestling Horse of the Year. Lee had retired from rodeo when his son wanted to hit the trail. He briefly returned to rodeo, travelling with son Luke, and ended up qualifying for his 13th CFR. When the finals ended that year, Lee sat 3rd in Canada’s standings.
Lee Laskosky fondly remembers family, good horses and great friends to travel with as key ingredients to a successful life and a great rodeo career. Reflecting on his rodeo days, Lee said, “Those were the best years of my life and I can say that without a doubt and with no regrets.”
Viola Thomas - Contestant
Raised on a ranch southwest of Calgary, Viola Thomas rode her horse to school until she went to the big city for high school and college. By the time she was a teenager she had won many trophies in competitive cross country trail and horse show events.
In 1957 she left the show ring for the rodeo arena, but she did not begin her rodeo career as a barrel racer.
She trained and used her horses for the Steer Decorating event which preceded today’s Steer Wrestling event. Several titles were won by contestants using Viola’s team. In 1958 she began entering the barrel racing and won the Canadian title in her first year. She won again in 1959, then took a year to compete in the United States, and came back to win her third Canadian Barrel Racing Championship in 1961.
Viola then was an accomplished jockey on the Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred tracks in Alberta and California. In 1968 Viola was selected to represent Canada by riding in the International Thoroughbred Derby. There she won a silver medal for her country. She was the first woman to be licensed as a jockey on an A track in Alberta. She was soon licensed in BC, Saskatchewan and Washington state as well.
Viola has been a range rider for a ranch in BC and a trail guide in Jasper National Park. Viola Thomas can truly say that everything she has today was earned on the back of a horse.
Bob Robertson - Legend, Inducted 2014
Bob was a many time qualifier for the CFR and he qualified for the NFR on one occasion. He served on the CPRA Board of Directors once as the Bull Riding Director and he also served as the President. Once Bob retired from active competition he joined the Wrangler Judging program. Bob Robertson was awarded the 2010 Cowboy of the Year Award for his outstanding contributions to the Sport of Rodeo over the years.
Lloyd Fowlie - Legend, Inducted 2014
Lloyd was a consistent qualifier for the CFR competing in the Steer Wrestling and Tie-down Roping events in the 70's and early 80's. He was as close as you can get to winning a Canadian Championship without taking home the buckle when in 1977 he was declared the Champion and already wearing the GWG green Jacket when it was discovered a technical malfunction had occurred with the barrier at the dogging chutes. A run-off was called and Lloyd finished the season in second place for the second year in a row.