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The Pendleton Round-Up

Following a July 4th celebration in 1909 consisting of bronc riding, horse races by Indians and Non-Indians, Indian feasts and war dances, greased pig contests, sack races, foot races and fireworks, some community and area leaders conceived the idea of an annual event to be known as the Pendleton Round-Up. Also, at that time, the Let'er Buck slogan, which is symbolic of the Round-Up, was inspired.

It was decided to stage the Round-Up some time around the middle of September to allow the grain farmers time to complete their harvest, and the livestock people an opportunity to make a late summer check-up.
The Round-Up was incorporated as a non-profit organization with papers signed July 29, 1910. The corporation's original legal title was "Northwestern Frontier Exhibition Association". Roy Raley was elected as the first Round-Up president.

The original operating budget for the first Round-Up was $2,860.00, 1990 expenses were $713,000.00. Articles of Incorporation included capital stock to be $5,000.00 -- 500 shares at $10.00 per share -- one share, one vote. Considering the time element and results obtained, 1910 was considered a masterpiece for the Round-Up.

On December 28, 1910, a purchase and sales contract was entered into with W. F. Matlock as seller, and N.F.E.A. as buyer, to purchase approximately 15 acres of ground where the present grandstand, race track, Indian village, corrals and barns are located. This was the same area used for the 1909 July 4th celebration and the 1910 Round-Up. The sales price for this 15 acres was $5,000.00. A $1,000.00 down payment was made and the $4,000.00 balance was secured by a note and mortgage on the property. It carried interest at the rate of 6%.

On February 1, 1911, this property was deeded to the City of Pendleton. The N.F.E.A. then signed a 10-year lease with the City of Pendleton on the property at $1.00 per year rental. With some alterations, considering circumstances and improvements, this agreement and lease has been carried down through the years. After acquisition of the land, the officers and directors voted (1) to establish a modified race track, and (2) construct a grandstand. The citizens of Pendleton, through a concentrated drive, solicited about $12,000 which was made available for the expansion purposes of the organization. Cost of the material for the grandstand was $3,124.00.

Chief Poker Jim

Ticket prices for 1911 were established at $1.50 for a box seat, $1.00 for the grandstand, $0.75 for the bleachers, $0.50 for all on horseback, and $0.50 for children under 12 years. The directors, in 1912, approved their choice of drawing for boxes, but no free tickets. The latter still holds true today.

The Indians have been an important factor in the success of the Round-Up, thanks originally to excellent relations between Major Lee Moorehouse, Superintendent of the Umatilla Reservation Agency, Roy Bishop, Round-Up Indian Director, and Poker Jim, Indian Chief and nephew of Chief Joseph.

In 1918, the show had shown a net profit of $5,098.77. It was by unanimous vote that the amount be contributed to the American Red Cross.

The announcing system was one of a kind. In the center of the grandstand, just off the track and inside the arena, a good sized pole was placed with the top about 18-20 feet above the ground. A 6 foot by 6 foot crows nest was firmly fastened to the top of this pole. On the crows nest was a 3 foot high protective fence. On this frame were bolted three megaphones, or speakers. One faced the grandstand, one faced East, and one faced West. Lee Drake did a superb job on these Edison specials.

Til Taylor replaced Roy Raley as president after the 1911 show. Early growth and acceptance of the Round-Up was beyond all expectations. The old wooden grandstand and bleachers were completed in a few short years and were capable of seating over 20,000 spectators.

The Oregon Journal of Portland sponsored by the late Sam Jackson (former editor of the East Oregonian) was responsible for 2, 3, and sometimes 4, special trains headed for Pendleton and the Round-Up. These were a complete package arrangement. Pullman accommodations, dining car, Round-Up and Happy Canyon tickets, and transportation to and from the grounds. Also, some years there were special trains out of Spokane.

1915 saw the presentation of Happy Canyon for the first time, which turned out to be a well received night show during Round-Up. On July 25, 1920, Round-Up president and Umatilla County Sheriff, Til Taylor, was murdered by four escaped convicts that had been held in the County Jail. They were ultimately captured, and since capital punishment was the law, these convicts received their appropriate justice.

Henry Collins was chosen to succeed Til Taylor as president. He had been associated with the Round-Up in some capacity since its beginning.

About 1930, it was decided the grandstand and the bleachers were in much need of repair. Also, there was need of additional barns, corrals, and enlargement of the Indian village by acquiring small tracts of land on the East and West end of the present site. It was suggested a $20,000.00 serial bond be issued to make funds available for these repairs and improvements. On schedule, the Association redeemed the bonds. Also, during this period of time, the Association purchased and owned their own bucking string.

Round-Up Queen Whitney White
Round-Up Queen Whitney White

Flag Bearers in the Westward Ho
Flag Bearers in the Westward Ho



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Source: Travel Oregon; magazineUSA.com
Last modified: 20080806
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