It’s that time of year again.
Late summer, most county fairs are now over, the wheat harvest is wrapped up, and thoughts turn to back-to-school, football games, and the arrival of Fall. Around these parts, it also means Round-Up time!
Having attended my very first Pendleton Round-Up and PBR events last year, I now know what all the fuss is about.
Working the Rotary beer sales booth one day last year, I had the opportunity to do some serious people watching in between pours. Of course, I saw a large contingent of what I would estimate to be veteran Round-Up/rodeo goers. They wear their boots and hats with an easy style that makes it clear that this is their frequent attire.
Other, shall we say, dudes and dudettes appear in Western attire as well, but the newness of their embroidered jeans, the immaculate and crisply blocked hats, and the finely polished boots seem to give away that this not a way of life, but rather an attempt to blend in. I myself own a clean straw hat that typically only makes it off the rack and atop my cranium just a few times a year, so I would be considered part of this “all hat and no cattle” crowd.
But I was also pleasantly surprised to spot several groups of what I would call Portland-style hipsters. Some might say, city slickers. The guys, in their 20s-30s, sported finely coiffed hipster beards, pork pie hats and tight-fitting rolled-up jeans, and the girls wore even tighter jeans, fashion boots (not Western) and whatever made one comfortable on a warm, sunny afternoon. I gathered that this was their typical uniform and they did not seem the least bit self-conscious or concerned about being out of place.
It’s an interesting development and a good thing. Round-Up has grown beyond just an Eastern Oregon event, or even a purely rural Northwest event. It’s now on people’s bucket lists from all walks of life. As Pendleton Convention Center Director (and a Round-Up aficionado from way back) Pat Beard told me recently, Round-Up — now celebrating its 109th year — is seen as a nationally acclaimed spectacle and genuine cultural happening that must be experienced.
For one week out of the year, Pendleton may well be the hippest and happiest place to be in all of Oregon, if not the Northwest. The event’s widespread popularity has grown tremendously over the past several years.
Early ticket sales for this year’s edition appear to confirm that positive trend. By almost every measure (attendance, concession and souvenir sales) the event is still growing. Hotels and campsites between Hermiston and La Grande will once again be fully occupied, restaurants and watering holes will be jammed, and hopefully, our local mom and pop stores will benefit from the additional traffic (and wallets) walking around town.
Included in today’s newspaper, you’ll see that we have inserted a complimentary copy of the 2019 Round-Up magazine with the theme “People of Round-Up.” As most locals know, it takes a virtual army of volunteers to pull off every facet of Round-Up, Happy Canyon, PBR, the Main Street Cowboys carnival, parades, concerts and more. We’ve tried to capture as much of that as we can in this 80-page volume.
We hope you enjoy these stories and images.
Now, let’s all get ready to “Let ‘er Buck!”