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 write 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-UpGrow it did.
Two decades later, patrons showed up from 36 states and eight foreign countries. Following two years in which the Round-Up was not held, because of World War II, attendance climbed again, eventually reaching 50,000 or more for the four-day show. “Success bred success and Round-Up stayed in high gear,” says the book “Let ‘er Buck! A history of 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 Blanchett, wife of cowboy Del Blancett, 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.”