Cougars Roar at Pendleton Round-Up and Happy Canyon
Offer Special Alumni Discounts to Round-Up and Happy Canyon
South of the Palouse’s rolling hills lies the Eastern Oregon
town of Pendleton; home to the world famous Pendleton Round-Up and Happy Canyon Night Show. With its iconic bucking horse and cowboy logo and cries of “Let’er Buck”, the 105 year old rodeo draws over 70,000 fans from around the world each year during the second full week of September. When the sun goes down and the arena grows dark, fans descend on the Happy Canyon Night Show for an evening of fun featuring Native American culture, western history and good old fashion music and humor served up by a cast of hundreds of volunteers. Entering its ninety-ninth year, Happy Canyon is the oldest community pageant in America.
Visitors to Pendleton during Round-Up week also enjoy events like the Westward Ho Parade, America’s longest non-motorized parade; the storied “Let’er Buck Room”, concerts featuring top country-western stars; two nights of professional bull riding; Native American beauty pageants and dancing; BBQs and free downtown shows. Throw in great shopping and restaurants and Round-Up and Happy Canyon are an unforgettable experience.
While the Round-Up and Happy Canyon are well known, what isn’t common knowledge is the key role of Washington State University Alumni in making the events an enduring success. Over the years, Cougars have served with distinction on the Boards of Directors of the Round-Up and Happy Canyon.
Among notable Round-Up Cougars is the late Mike Hopper, Class of 73. Mike’s service on the Round-Up Board culminated with selection as the Association’s President from 1996 to 1998. While at Pullman, Mike and his wife Diana were star members of the WSU rodeo team and captained the men’s and women’s squads. Following graduation, they ranched together near Stanfield, Oregon, running the Double M Ranch and Top Cut Feed feedlot. Mike also competed in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association as a steer wrestler and was active in the Future Farmers of America program. The Round-Up’s Mike Hopper Memorial Steer Wrestling Buckle is presented in his memory each year as is the Mike Hopper Scholarship to the outstanding FFA member in Umatilla County.
The Hansell family has a long history of service to WSU, the Round-Up and Happy Canyon. Kenzie Hansell, a fourth generation volunteer, currently serves as a Happy Canyon Director. A member of the class of 2004, he played football for the Cougars including the 2001 Sun Bowl, 2003 Rose Bowl and the 2003 Holiday Bowl teams. In keeping with long-standing family tradition, Kenzie was a member of Sigma Chi. After graduation, Kenzie and his wife Emily, class of 2004, returned to Athena, Oregon to run the family farming business along with brothers TJ and Luke, who also played football for WAZZU and volunteered at the Round-Up. In addition to serving as a Director for the Happy Canyon Night Show, Kenzie is active in coaching youth sports programs and involved in local farming organizations.
Kenzie inherited his love for the Round-Up and Happy Canyon from his late father, Ty. A 1969 graduate, he anchored the Cougar’s line as a standout offensive lineman. In addition to serving as a Round-Up Director, Ty developed a very successful farming operation centered on Hermiston, Oregon. A forward thinking community and industry leader, Ty was instrumental in launching the award winning Farmers Ending Hunger program, created by former WSU faculty member Fred Ziari, and was appointed to the Oregon Water Resources Board by three Governors.
Kenzie’s grandfather, Dr. William H. Hansell, a WSU veterinary program graduate, served as the Round-Up and Happy Canyon veterinarian from 1948 to 1968. Dr. Hansell ended his long service to the Round-Up so he could have his time in September free to watch son Ty play for his beloved Cougars.
The tradition of Cougar football players being part of the Round-Up includes Bob Ewen, Class of 1970. A star running back at Pullman, Bob held the record for the team’s longest punt and signed with the Dallas Cowboys following his time in Crimson and Grey. Ewen was a member of Sigma Nu during his days on campus. Bob latter enjoyed a career with the Oregon State Police; holding several important assignments before retiring as a Captain. His involvement with the Round-Up began when Ty Hansell invited Bob to Round-Up Ewen, enjoyed the experience so much he became a volunteer and ultimately was asked to become a Director.
Mike Thorne, Class of 62, is another distinguished Round-Up Cougar. Mike was a member of Alpha Gamma Rho and Phi Kappa Phi honor society. After graduating, Mike, and his wife Jill who also attended WSU, returned to Oregon where he served for many years as the state senator representing Northeast Oregon. He also held important leadership positions as the Executive Director of the Port of Portland and Director of the Washington State Ferry System. Currently, Mike runs the family farming and ranching operations near Pendleton while serving on several foundations and boards, including the Oregon State University Board of Trustees. During his tenure as a Round-Up Director, Mike helped lead efforts to celebrate the Round-Up’s 100th Anniversary including the construction of the Centennial West Grandstand. Completing the Thorne family’s WSU Round-Up connection, daughter Katy, currently the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s Director, was the Queen of the Round-Up.
1971 graduate Casey Beard serves as the Round-Up and Happy Canyon’s first General Manager. While at WSU, he was a member of Phi Sigma Kappa and the Butch Men. Commissioned through the WSU ROTC program, Casey and his wife Anne, who attended WSU, spent 20 years in the Army. During his career, Beard held important command and staff positions, served as an exchange officer with the British Army, attended the Navy War College and participated in Desert Storm. Retiring from the Army, Beard returned to the Northwest to manage the family rodeo business providing bucking horses and bulls for the Northwest’s top rodeos, including the Round-Up. Casey served on the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Board of Directors. After selling the family rodeo company, the Round-Up and Happy Canyon hired him as their first General Manager.
One of the unique features making the Round-Up and Happy Canyon so special is the contribution of thousands of volunteers who collectively donate over 60,000 hours of their time each year to insure that the events are successful. Representative of these civic minded supporters is Anne (French) Livingston, Class of 1988. Anne was a member of Alpha Gamma Delta and the Rally Squad during her days at Pullman. In addition to serving as the Director of Student Recruiting, Marketing and Leadership at Blue Mountain Community College, Anne has held several key volunteer assignments at the Round-Up. Carrying on the Cougar connection, daughters Justine and Julia, both volunteers in their own right, will enroll in WSU’s 2016 freshman class.
Completing the WSU connection to the Round-Up and Happy Canyon is champion cowboy Tom Sorey, who attended WSU in the 1900s. Always a top contender, Tom won the Steer Roping title in 1999. Tom’s daughter, Emily Jayne, a Princess on the current Round-Up Court, plans to attend WSU.
To recognize the special association between WSU and the Round-Up and Happy Canyon, Cougar alumni can enjoy a special discount on tickets for the Wednesday, September 16 and Thursday, September 17 performances as well as special offers on Round-Up and Happy Canyon merchandise available at the Round-Up’s online store. Please visit their web site www.pendletonroundup.com
and enter code gocougs15
or call (541) 276-2553 to purchase tickets and merchandise. Come on down to Pendleton this September to join your fellow Cougars and help them “Let’er Buck”.