By Lisa Scott | Western Heritage Event Center
The 73rd annual Red Ryder Roundup Rodeo committee and the board of the Western Heritage Event Center honored Jess Ketchum with the 2023 Red Ryder Award for his great love for rodeos, his outstanding contribution to the western culture of this community, for his service and his friendship.
The board of the Western Heritage Event Center acknowledges individuals who have upheld ideals that align with the board’s mission statement to provide a venue for education and training for youth and equestrian events, and preserve the history and traditions of the American West.
Ketchum was introduced to horses when his family moved to Pagosa Springs when he was 8. He did ranch work to make money and buy his own horse, Libby, when he was 10. Moving cattle, packing during hunting seasons, fence and irrigation work, on all the well-known family ranches in Archuleta County, is how Ketchum made his own money to continue to buy his own horses, feed and tack. It also enabled him to buy a 1984 GMC standard shift three-quarter-ton pickup truck when he was 16.
Then, he began driving to team roping competitions on weekends, with friends in tow, and practiced and competed in the hometown Western Heritage Arena.
A graduate of Fort Lewis College, he continued with ranch and cattle work, moved into electrician and construction work, and now owns and operates a residential and commercial appraisal business — and he still runs cattle today. He is married to Casey and they have three outstanding children, Kylie, Duke and Jeb.
Ketchum served on the Western Heritage Event Center Board of Directors from 2009-2019 and served in many officer positions, including president. His hands-on approach to the work that needed to be done in the arena and grounds set an example for all to follow. He organized and managed the Red Ryder Rodeos and many other rodeo events that were instrumental to the success the organization has experienced. The initial processes of developing the Hughes Pavilion was led by Ketchum and he continued as the lead for two years after his departure from the board.
Western heritage is important to Ketchum because “we need to preserve the traditions of the past and keep them alive. It is an important part of agriculture and our American history.”