The Pendleton Round-Up turns 100 this September. It’s not the oldest rodeo in the country, and not even close to the biggest. But according to the cowboys who compete there, it’s one of the best. And besides, the Round-Up is far more than just a rodeo.

The next OREGON EXPERIENCE goes behind the scenes to explore the Round-Up’s rich history, including rodeo clowns and Indian pageants, and a succession of rodeo riders – African-American, Native-American and women – who defied the prejudices of the times to become crowd favorites.

“Pendleton Round-Up: The Wild West Way,” airing Thursday, September 9 at 8pm on the stations of Oregon Public Broadcasting, is an action-packed hour filled with fierce community spirit, pageantry and tradition passed from generation to generation.

The Round-Up began in 1910. Portland and the Willamette Valley were growing fast. Pendleton didn’t want to be left behind and was looking for a blockbuster event to attract people to the area. So a group of civic-minded businessmen led by a young attorney named Roy Raley came up with the idea for a frontier extravaganza, building on the strengths of their Wild-West heritage. From the very beginning, it was nonstop entertainment choreographed with fierce bulls, bucking broncs and the best exhibition around.

An extraordinary number of local volunteers run the whole operation, making a year-round commitment to this week-long event. The Round-Up, in turn, has become inextricably intertwined with the Pendleton community and the Umatilla Reservation. The active Native-American presence has kept the Round-Up distinctive throughout these many years. The Indian village at the Round-Up is the largest encampment on the professional rodeo circuit.

Much of “The Wild West Way,” co-produced by Nadine Jelsing and Eric Cain, is illustrated with amazing archival film from some of the earliest Round-Ups, plus action-packed still photography from the Oregon Historical Society, the Umatilla County Historical Society and several private collections.

OREGON EXPERIENCE filmed last year’s Round-Up and spent another week in Pendleton earlier this summer interviewing the variety of folks that make the event happen.

See a story-filled interview with 100-year-old Allen “Monk” Carden, who was America’s oldest living rodeo clown until his death just a few months ago. Watch the daredevil rides of legendary old-time cowgirls. Hear from Bob Chambers who announced the rodeo event for 23 years. Drop by the legendary Hotel de Cowpunch, the very informal bunkhouse atop the Severe Brothers Saddle Shop. Learn about the Round-Up queen and her court, and meet the woman who sews the traditional split-leather outfits worn by the court “royalty.”

Tune in Thursday, September 9 at 8pm on OPB and watch online anytime after the broadcast at or at

OREGON EXPERIENCE is an exciting history series on OPB TV that brings to life fascinating stories that help us understand who we are and that reinforce our shared identity as Oregonians. The series, co-produced by the Oregon Historical Society and Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB), takes advantage of the extensive film, video and stills from the archives of OHS and OPB, and draws upon the expertise of OHS researchers and historians. Each half-hour show features captivating characters — both familiar and forgotten — who have played key roles in building our state into the unique place we call home. Funding for OREGON EXPERIENCE is provided in part by James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation and Oregon Cultural Trust.

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