Roy Raley, father of both Happy Canyon and the Pendleton Round-Up, was a true Pendleton pioneer. He was born in Pendleton in 1880, the only son of the four children of Col. and Mrs. James Henry Raley. He was a lawyer, legislator, cattleman, banker, surveyor, engineer, Indian fighter, sportsman, businessman, and creator of community celebrations. He was a man who made things happen”and not just any way, but the right way.
When the Pendleton Round-Up chose its first president in 1910, it was a foregone conclusion that Roy Raley would be the first. The community recognized him as a showman. He liked celebrations, whether it was attending world’s fairs or lodge picnics. As he said in a speech to the Portland Rose Festival officials in 1924, “When the band starts to play, I start down the street – and I usually find many others doing the same thing. It has been a great pleasure to attempt to analyze the various forms of entertainment, in order to attempt to find the elements in them which attract the crowds and then to try to verify my conclusions by using these elements in my own shows.”
The first Happy Canyon show was in 1913, entitled “The Pageant of the West – an Outdoor Dramatic Production, Symbolizing the History and Development of the Great West.” The idea originated with Roy Raley, who for the three years since the beginning of the Round-Up, worked on a thought that the community and visitors attending the Round-Up needed a first-class community entertainment for their evenings. Raley wrote the script for Happy Canyon, planned the scenery, and directed the first pageants.
The night show of the Pendleton Round-Up was, during 1914 and 1915, held as a part of the Umatilla-Morrow County Fair. In 1916, land was purchased in downtown Pendleton, the Happy Canyon Association was incorporated, the amphitheater was constructed at a total cost of $11,140, and the first show with full scenery took place. Cost of admission was 50¢ for adults and 25¢ for children.
Raley knew the Indians well, and with the help of local tribal members, worked up a sequence of Indian village life before the coming of the white man. He designed the scenery and backdrop, including the high basalt cliffs of the region with teepees in the foreground to represent this area during the coming of the white man, first as frontiersmen and later as emigrants.
His father had traveled along the Oregon Trail to Pendleton in 1862, and had settled in a log cabin at the exact location where the Oregon State Correctional Facility now is located west of Pendleton. Roy Raley had all of the family background necessary to write an accurate and entertaining account of the history of the development of this region.
Raley was active in all community affairs, being a long-time member of the Pendleton school board, president of the Pendleton Rotary Club, Pendleton city attorney, president of the Oregon State Bar, chairman of the Pendleton Parks Commission, planner of the Vert building in Pendleton, and originating member of the Pendleton Foundation Trust. He also was the organizer of the Indian beauty contest, still held annually before the Westward Ho! Parade.