The Pendleton Round Up…Round Two…Here We Go!
As you pass through the gates into the rodeo grounds, you immediately find yourself next to the South Grandstand, and as you look up towards the top of it, about half way down, you will see the Winner’s Plague. These cowboys and cowgirls were the winners in their events at the Round Up in 2012…the large plague proudly displays their names next to their events. Winning Pendleton is an honor as the rodeo is one of the top three rodeos along with Calgary and Cheyenne.
What sets the Pendleton Round-Up apart from the other great rodeos in America is its aesthetic. That word implies art, but also history and culture.
The first Pendleton Round-Up was to be “a frontier exhibition of picturesque pastimes, Indian and military spectacles, cowboy racing and bronco busting for the championship of the Northwest.” It turned out to be that and more. For the initial show, all stores closed. “The largest crowd in Pendleton’s history,” 7,000 strong, showed up for the first show on September 29, 1910, a newspaper writer reported. “The words ‘Pendleton’ and Round-Up’ are on the lips of thousands and will continue to be for months and years to come…The Round-Up is a whirlwind success.” Souvenir program from The 1913 Round-Up said the rodeo was growing. And grow it did.
Two decades later, patrons showed up from 36 states and eight foreign countries. The following two years the Round Up was not held, because of World War II, once the war was over, the attendance climbed again, eventually reaching 50,000 or more for the four-day show. “Success bred success and the Round Up stayed in high gear,” says the book “Let ‘er Buck! A brief history of the Pendleton Round Up.”
The key to the success of the rodeo and its many attendant activities is community participation – volunteers. Indian participation has been a strong attraction, too, in the Round-Up arena, at Happy Canyon, in the Indian Village and in the Westward Ho! Parade. Long before women’s lib, the fairer sex got into the act at the Round-Up – cowgirls in the early days of the Round-Up could be as tough as men. In 1914 Bertha Blanchette, wife of cowboy Del Blanchette, came within 12 points of winning the all-around title.
Midway through the Round Up’s colorful history, a Eugene newspaper summed it up with a characterization that remains applicable today: “In good times and bad, Pendleton has gone on with the Round Up. People over on the Umatilla have always been willing to take a chance. Maybe that’s the real cowboy spirit. Maybe it’s a little bit tougher brand of civic spirit. Anyhow, in Pendleton, the show goes on.”
Having volunteers who want to make a difference, while helping make the rodeo a success, makes Pendleton very unique It has often been said by the directors of both Happy Canyon and The Pendleton Round Up that the volunteers are the glue, as they strive to give their time to make the Round-Up the greatest rodeo on earth. Through the year the volunteers clean up the rodeo grounds and the barns, adding a fresh coat of paint where it is needed, and fix anything and everything that needs to be fixed.
And so it begins with slack on Monday of Round Up week. This year there did not appear to be as many contestants, as slack often will begin on Saturday or Sunday…by Monday morning it is in full-swing. This year it did not begin until Monday afternoon.
I enjoy going to slack in some ways more than the actual rodeo as you see true life…the last minute details coming together. Whether you are a contestant or on the Round Up board of directors or working on the arena crew, you work hard…making sure that everything goes off in sync, without a hitch.
The bucking chute crew is on stand by…but I bet they’re ready to go at the drop of a hat!
The chutes look a bit different on rodeo day!
Family and friends watching slack runs in the shade to escape the heat. This year Round Up week was hot, the usual breeze did not stir through the stands, so you watched the rodeo, fanning yourself with the program, while feeling beads of sweat rolling down your back or face!
Contestants also waiting in the shade, talking to old friends, trying to relax as they wait for their number to be called.
More cowboys are arriving…saddling up horses…and will soon be ready to go!
From a rather quiet slack day to a rock and roll rodeo day! Cowboys warming up in the confines of a much smaller space in the arena before their event.
I will have one more post on The Round Up…so stay tuned!
In the mean time…Let ‘er Buck!!!