The city of Ketchum and the Wagon Days Committee have named Leonard N. “Bud” Purdy as 55th annual Wagon Days grand marshal.
The annual Wagon Days event over Labor Day weekend celebrates Ketchum’s rich mining heritage, culminating in the Wagon Days Parade, one of the largest non-motorized parades in the West.
“It is a great honor for us to be able to acknowledge the lifelong contributions of Mr. Purdy, an Idaho legend, and true leader in our community,” said Ketchum Mayor Randy Hall.
“It is with great honor to be chosen as the 2013 grand marshal for Wagon Days” Purdy said. “This makes all the work I have done in the past worthwhile.”
Wagon Days organizers will honor Purdy at the Grand Marshal’s Ceremony, a public event, at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 29, at Memory Park in Ketchum.
Purdy started working on his family ranch in Picabo directly out of Washington State College in 1938. At that time, the ranch worked mostly horses and raised hay and grain to feed 8,000 sheep. The sheep were grazed on both public and private land and lambed in Picabo at the ranch in February.
Although Purdy had a degree in business, he worked as a ranch hand for five years, learning the ranching life the hard way. Bud married Maxine Dahl in 1939, and they had three children, Nick, Kris and Mark. They were later divorced.
In 1943, the ranch foreman quit and Purdy took over. World War II was continuing and help was hard to find, but thanks to some local ranchers and very old workers they managed to get by. Purdy married Ruth Eccles, and she, with her son Gordon, moved to the ranch in 1952.
In 1955, Purdy and his sister and brother bought the ranch from the Kilpatrick brothers. He kept the main ranch and his sister and brother bought the sheep and their range. He added to the ranch over the years. The Purdys bought the Picabo General Store, which had been started by the Kilpatricks in 1902. The store is now operated by Nick and Sharon Purdy and Rancher’s Supply by Bud’s grandsons.
“I am semi-retired, but still keep my eye on everything at the ranch, especially the cattle,” Purdy said. “My son Nick is now in charge, but he still lets me fly my airplane.”
Purdy felt there was more that he could offer besides ranching, so he started working with the Idaho Cattle Association. He was elected president in 1977 and this led him to serve on several local and nation grazing boards. He also became interested in higher education and was elected president of the University of Idaho Foundation and later president of the College of Southern Idaho Foundation.
About 12 years ago, Blaine County was in need of a new hospital, and Bud was asked to co-chair with Nancy Cord a fundraising drive. They helped raise $18 million to build St. Luke’s Wood River.
His private conservation values led him to donate in the 1990s a 3,500-acre conservation easement on all of the family ranch along Silver Creek. This contribution to the Nature Conservancy helped it to protect its own Silver Creek Preserve, a place visited and loved by tens of thousands of anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts each year.
In a news release, Wagon Days organizers said: “Many of the Wood River Valley’s important nonprofit organizations have been considerably enhanced by the efforts of Purdy. He is respected not only for his ranching skills, business acumen and environmental values, but also for his ability to look to the future. Purdy is the best ambassador of a lifestyle and culture that Idaho and the West hopes to preserve.”