Oregon- Let ‘Er Buck - Pendleton Style
by: Ann Terry Hill
Photo courtesy of Pendleton Round-Up
Calgary has its character, Cheyenne has its sashay, but there's only one Pendleton, Oregon---only one Round-Up, where the indomitable buckaroo spirit reigns supreme!
It started out as a small bronc riding contest and roping exhibition held amid fields of wheat and barley, to celebrate the end of harvest. Today, almost 100 years later, it lives on as the most famous rodeo in the Northwest, rivaling Cheyenne and Calgary in magnitude. The Pendleton Round-Up, Pendleton, Oregon, kicks into high gear the second full week of September. Just the thought of it summons images of the rugged Northwest, in the best romantic light: the high desert; timber country; the Blue Mountains; the Harvest moon; the mix of cultures; the distinctive heavy wool and leather garb of these parts; the crispness and chill of the encroaching autumn. Pendleton pulls at your heart with a mood and an atmosphere all its own. It's without question the rodeo of buckaroos, that distinctive breed of cowboy and cowgirl whose style and substance has made this show what it is today. To quote one old-time cowboy champion. You really have to Cowboy Up to win there!
Right out of the chute in 1910 the town was jammed with spectators and abuzz with excitement. That spirit has carried on to this day. The town of about 17,000 swells to over 50,000 during the week. The cry "Let 'er Buck" is on everyone's lips and the emotions build higher and higher for the Saturday afternoon finals.
The week starts off Saturday, September 8th with the Dress-Up Parade and a concert by Country/Western music star Josh Turner. Monday and Tuesday, September 10th & 11th, the Professional Bull Riders are the action. September 12,13,14 & 15th it's RODEO, RODEO, RODEO during the afternoon, and in the evenings the unique Happy Canyon Pageant which tells the story of the Indians, the coming of the white man, and the frolicking Frontier life that emerged. The famed Westward Ho! Parade, where there are no motorized vehicles allowed, takes place Friday morning. It has all been going on for decades, and the traditions, the history, and passions build each year. The rodeo uses bucking stock from the best PRCA stock contractors. The caliber of the contestants is just as high. Approximately 500 top cowboys and cowgirls from around the world compete, hoping to win rich purses and to secure or solidify a berth in the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas each December.
Pendleton is wide-open and ready for visitors. There's plenty to occupy your spare time. The Round-Up Hall of Fame will give you background history on what makes this celebration so great. Hamley & Co., renovated and restored to its old glory of 1905, will turn any Dude into a Partner! Be sure to visit the saddle shop in the back of the store where you can meet leather artist Jim Stone, who turns out some of the finest saddles in the country. Zan Traughber, ZPT Silver, is also there, so her's a chance to pick up that custom sterling piece you've always hankered for; maybe your own personalized buckle. The original Pendleton Woolen Mills offers tours. About five miles out of town, out Mission way, on the Old Oregon Trail, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indians house Tamastslikt Cultural Institute tells the story of the Indians from their own perspective. The Wildhorse Resort and Casino, also on the reservation, has a championship golf course, to go along with its other amenities.
The Pendleton Underground, The Pendleton Center for the Arts and the Umatilla Historical Society (Heritage Station) are all open and waiting for their chance to entertain you. Tour the Underground and the above ground Cozy Rooms for a taste of Pendleton's infamous past. The Arts Center features regional artists and during Round-Up time has a Western theme. Heritage Station puts you in touch with the history of the region from the beginning with well-designed displays.
Eating is good here too! You don't have to subsist on beans or corn dogs! Raphaels Restaurant offers a mix of gourmet Native American dishes, and the Roy Raley Cocktail (named after the Round-Up's first president). If you're feeling truly adventuresome, try a “Raley on the Rocks!" Both made with that fine Pendleton Whisky. New to the list of contenders is Hamley's Steakhouse. Already an icon for its 1890s decor, old oak bar, and Western ambience, it offers beef and buffalo and other choices served in a style that is a far cry from chuck wagon fare. Wildhorse Resort and Casino, too, has some of the finest dining in the area at their Plateau Restaurant. The view of the Blue Mountains from this eatery makes the gourmet choices taste even more gourmet. For simpler fare, and a good prime rib, try Stetson's.
How you can go: Reservations get quite tight during this time of year. Try the Pendleton Chamber of Commerce for assistance in securing a room. They coordinate with towns throughout the region, and know what is available. 800-547-8911. For more information and tickets for Round-Up and Happy Canyon events call 800-45-RODEO (800-457-6336).
Saddle Up Partners' The second full week in September is the time to Let “er Buck"!