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 writer 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.”
Grow 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 the 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.”