One of the most colourful characters to reach Lloydminster radio listeners and television viewers was Ernie Ford, born September 13, 1934, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. His fascination for rodeo began at the tender age of six when his grandparents took him to the Calgary Stampede. He was slightly built, but admired the ruggedness of the cowboy athletes.
Ford served in the navy, participating in the D-Day invasion during World War II. After the War, Ernie decided on a radio career which began in Shelby, Montana. During a tour of over 30 radio stations in Canada and the U.S. he battled alcoholism. He was in and out of hospitals and jails. After drying out, Ernie landed in Lloydminster to broadcast for CKSA Radio in 1967. He was the first person to broadcast a complete rodeo in 1970.
Ernie endeared himself to a vast Radio and TV audience. Avalanches of mail poured into the station weekly. His witty anecdotes and borderline comments were legend. His afternoon TV show "Grandpa Sneezby" with his puppet pals Shrimp and Heinz captivated the youngsters. He traveled with his two faithful canine companions Sam and Scraps. He was a storehouse of knowledge on Country and Western music and singers. Despite having an artificial leg, he traveled over a million miles promoting the sport of Rodeo.
In recognition of his dedication to Rodeo broadcasting he received the Belvedere Award in 1977. Also that year, the Professional Rodeo Cowboys’ Association and National Finals Rodeo Oklahoma City presented him with the honour of contributing the most in the promotion of the sport. The Canadian Cutting Horse Association recognized him in 1977. In 1978, Ernie was singled out as the No. 1 Cowboy promoter of the Media by the Pro Cowboys of America and Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce. CKSA-TV was recognized with a Can-Pro ’82 award for their Rodeo ’81 telecast described by Ernie Ford. Ernie’s most cherished accolade came in 1983 when he was inducted into the Lloydminster Kinsmen Sports Hall of Fame for Rodeo.
Ernie was hospitalized for a few months in Edmonton, but while in his 18th consecutive year of broadcasting Rodeo on CKSA Radio and TV, he died October 25, 1984 at 60 years of age. He left his mark in the Midwest and throughout North America. Fans and contestants attending the Lakeland Rodeo Finals "Showdown ‘84" paid tribute to "Mr. Rodeo" by observing a minute’s silence. Ernie would have said, "God bless you all … "
Note: none of the details of this article have been cross verified