The hotels have been sold out for months, with waiting lists not budging.
Motels within a radius of 50 miles are already set to flash their “no vacancy” signs.
And the only arena seats left are found in parts of South Grandstand and West Grandstand. (Who knows how long those seats will last?)
Come September, the town of Pendleton, Oregon, will be overflowing with writers, historians, politicians, celebrities, film crews and even 2,000 Oregon bikers, who will be camping outside of town. Though the day after the close of the rodeo is traditionally when people begin booking rooms for the next year’s event, the 2010 rodeo required more advance planning. That’s because 2010 marks the 100th anniversary of the Pendleton Round-Up, taking place on September 15-18.
In Pendleton, PRCA rodeo cowboys don’t have to worry about where to hang their hats (sorry, cowgirls, no ladies allowed). They usually stay at a little-known place called Hotel de Cowpunch, the barracks bedroom run by Severe Bros. Saddlery.
Doc Severinsen, famed band leader for Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show for more than 25 years, remembers it well. “Ah yes, those good old days at the Hotel de Cowpunch…. It reminds me of my great days as a young man celebrating at the Pendleton Round-Up…both as a spectator and a participant,” he says. “No matter why you’re there, the hotel is where it all starts and ends.”
In 1955, Duff and Bill Severe opened their saddle shop in the vacant two-story building at the Pendleton Airport. Since it had formerly provided housing to Army personnel during WWII, the upper level of the Severe Brothers’ shop became a Mecca for PRCA cowboys traveling through town. The rent was free, and the pot always poured out warm coffee. All a cowboy had to do was roll out his sleeping bag on one of the abandoned Army bunks. If he were lucky he might be privy to a late-night jam session that featured the likes of Johnny Denver and Bonnie Guitar. When rodeo legend Casey Tibbs returned from a trip to France in the 1950s, he was eager to try out his French with his South Dakota accent, so he officially dubbed the place “Hotel de Cowpunch.”
Standing within these walls brings back memories of old-time cowboys when they all traveled together, often by rail, and shared their meals, their luck, their money and their stories. In this select fraternity, competitors still willingly offer each other tips and cheer each other on, while the not so lucky get a good dose of support and hope for the next event.
When the cowboys leave these “hidden” quarters, they are thrown into a potpourri of events and entertainment. The Pendleton Round-Up not only features a world-class rodeo, but also a nightly Indian pageant and encampment, and an old-time—no motorized vehicles—parade. One-of-a-kind shopping experiences include Hamley & Co., famed throughout the world for its saddles; Montana Peaks Hat Co., relatively new to Pendleton but already established as the place to buy custom hats; and the Boots Leonard Gallery, where one can order custom-made buckskins.
This September’s rodeo will offer numerous centennial events. One hundred American flag-bearing horseback riders will lead the Westward Ho! parade on Friday morning. Each day of the four-day show will feature one heritage event, such as the Northwest bucking competition, in which broncs are saddled right in the arena and the cowboy has to mount without protection of a chute; the hide race, featuring competitors who ride a cowhide between two racing horses; and the serpentine, which, in the old days, marked the start of the show as all the competitors and Indians wound their way through the arena.
These old-time showstoppers will be intertwined with regular PRCA events. This rodeo attracts more than 700 competitors annually, and the purses are among the largest paid out. Even more, the Pendleton Round-Up is one of the last stops for contestants to secure points to determine their eligibility for the National Finals Rodeo held in Las Vegas, Nevada, every December. Winning the All-Around in Pendleton is akin to winning the Masters in golf.
Happy Canyon, the nighttime pageant that accompanies the festivities,
has been going since 1913 and showcases the Indian story of the West. Roles have been handed down from generation to generation; no exact script exists. The Indians know when to appear according to the music the orchestra is playing. The pageant closes with a trumped-up frontier town show (including a fire in the brothel) and a performance of the famed horseback quadrille. Guests are invited to join the fun afterwards for Western dances and gambling.
Since 1910, the year of the first Round-Up, when cowboys gathered to celebrate the end of the harvest and partake in some friendly competition, the event has been held every year, except for the WWII years of 1942-43. During the Great Depression years, Washington, D.C. wanted to buy the rodeo, but the citizens of Pendleton declined the offer; some things you just can’t put a price on.
One hundred years later, the show still goes on. For many of the rodeo cowboys competing in the Pendleton Round-Up, the Hotel de Cowpunch will still be where it all starts and ends. For the rest of us lucky ticket holders, let’s hope you already reserved your rooms.
NOW THROUGH SEPT. 25…
Pilesgrove, NJ, Cowtown Rodeo: 856-769-3200 CowtownRodeo.com
1-4…Socorro, NM, Socorro County Fair and Rodeo: 575-835-8927
3-5…Elk City, OK, Rodeo of Champions: 800-280-0207 ElkCityRodeoAndPBR.com
3-6…Ellensburg, WA, Ellensburg Rodeo: 800-637-2444 www.EllensburgRodeo.com
4-5…Amarillo, TX, Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch Rodeo: 800-687-3722 CalFarley.org
4-6…Hastings, NE, Oregon Trail Rodeo: 888-462-3247 AdamsCountyFairgrounds.com
15-18…Pendleton, OR, Pendleton Round-Up: 800-457-6336 PendletonRoundUp.com
23-26…Omaha, NE, Ak-Sar-Ben’s River City Rodeo & Stock Show: 402-554-9600 RiverCityRoundup.org
24-25…Medicine Lodge, KS, Kansas Championship Ranch Rodeo: 620-886-9815 PeaceTreaty.org
8-16…Waco, TX, Heart o’ Texas Fair & Rodeo: 254-776-1660 HotFair.com
11-16…Billings, MT, The Nile Stock Show, Pro Rodeo & Western Expo: 406-256-2495 TheNile.org
20-24…San Francisco, CA, Grand National Rodeo: 415-404-4100 CowPalace.com
5-6…Guthrie, OK, Clem McSpadden National Finals Steer Roping: 800-595-7433 LazyE.com
11-14…Amarillo, TX, WRCA World Championship Ranch Rodeo: 806-374-9722 WRCA.org
2-11…Las Vegas, NV, National Finals Rodeo: 702-739-3267 NFRExperience.com
8-23…Denver, CO, National Western Stock Show: 303-297-1166 NationalWestern.com
28-Feb. 6…Rapid City, SD, Black Hills Stock Show & Rodeo: 605-355-3861 BlackHillsStockShow.com
19-27…Tucson, AZ, La Fiesta de los Vaqueros: 800-964-5662 TucsonRodeo.com
1-20…Houston, TX, Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo: 832-667-1000 RodeoHouston.com
4-6…Guthrie, OK, Wrangler Timed Event Championship: 800-595-7433 LazyE.com
6-9…Pocatello, ID, Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo: 208-233-1546 DNCFR.org
6-8…Dublin, TX, Cowboy Culture Celebration: 254-592-1653 CowboyCultureCelebration.com
20-22…Miles City, MT, Miles City Bucking Horse Sale: 406-234-2890 BuckingHorseSale.com
1-Aug. 31…Cody, WY, Cody Nite Rodeo: 800-207-0744 CodyStampedeRodeo.com
10-12…Lexington, NE, Plum Creek Rodeo: 308-324-5504
16-25…Reno, NV, Reno Rodeo: 800-225-2277 RenoRodeo.com
22-26…Santa Fe, NM, Rodeo de Santa Fe: 505-471-4300 RodeoDeSantaFe.org
24-26…Prineville, OR, Crooked River Round-Up: 541-447-4479 CrookedRiverRoundup.com
29-July 4…Prescott, AZ, Frontier Days: 800-358-1888 WorldsOldestRodeo.com
TBA…Amarillo, TX, Amarillo Cowboy Roundup: CowboyRoundupUSA.org
TBA…West Yellowstone, MT, Wild West Yellowstone Rodeo: 406-560-6913 YellowstoneRodeo.com
TBA…Snowmass, CO, Snowmass Village Rodeo: 970-923-8898 SnowmassRodeo.org
TBA…Greeley, CO, Greeley Stampede: 970-356-7787 GreeleyStampede.org
TBA…Tooele, UT, Deseret Peak Stampede Days: 435-843-4020 DeseretPeakComplex.com
1-4…St. Paul, OR, St. Paul Rodeo: 800-237-5920 StPaulRodeo.com
2-4…Belle Fourche, SD, Black Hills Roundup: 605-892-2676 BlackHillsRoundup.com
2-4…Mandan, ND, Mandan Rodeo Days: 701-751-2983 MandanRodeo.com
2-10…Laramie, WY, Laramie Jubilee Days: 800-445-5303 LaramieJubileeDays.com
8-17…Calgary, AB, Canada, Calgary Stampede: 800-661-1260 CalgaryStampede.com
13-16…Sheridan, WY, Sheridan Rodeo: 307-675-1931 SheridanWYORodeo.com
19-23…Nampa, ID, Snake River Stampede: 208-466-8497 SnakeRiverStampede.com
22-23…Bandera, TX, National Day of the American Cowboy Ranch Rodeo: 800-364-3833
22-31…Cheyenne, WY, Cheyenne Frontier Days: 800-227-6336 CFDRodeo.com
26-30…Deadwood, SD, Days of ’76 Rodeo: 888-838-2855 DaysOf76.com
28-30…Burwell, NE, Nebraska’s Big Rodeo: 308-346-5205 NebraskasBigRodeo.com
TBA…The Dalles, OR, Fort Dalles Days & Rodeo: 541-296-2231 TheFortDallesRodeo.com
TBA…Gunnison, CO, Cattlemen’s Days: 970-596-2514 CattlemensDays.com
TBA…Cody, WY, Xtreme Bulls Tour Stop: 800-207-0744 CodyStampedeRodeo.com
TBA…Sublimity, OR, Santiam Championship Stampede: 503-769-2799 SCSRodeo.org
TBA…Joseph, OR, Chief Joseph Days: 541-432-1015 ChiefJosephDays.com
TBA…Saratoga, WY, Platte River Rodeo: 307-777-7777
13-20…Douglas, WY, Wyoming State Fair and Rodeo: 307-358-2398 WYStateFair.com
24-27…Vinita, OK, Will Rogers Memorial Rodeo: 918-256-7133 WillRogersMemorialRodeo.com
TBA…Payson, AZ, World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo: 800-672-9766
TBA…Phillipsburg, KS, Kansas’s Biggest Rodeo: 785-543-2448 KansasBiggestRodeo.com