I woke up very early in California to get to the airport by 6 am. Then the puddle jumper plane took 90 minutes to get to Pasco Washington. From there it was another two hours to Pendleton. Therefore I arrived a little shell shocked and needed a rest. Driving into town though, I saw booths along the streets, cars and large pick up trucks all over and many pedestrians milling about. We got lucky, arriving around 1 pm, as we were later than incoming traffic and we just had to drive slow because of all the pedestrians.
Thankfully the only plan we had for the first day was dinner at Cimmiyottis restaurant. This is a place you have to experience to believe. We ate there on “Tough enough to wear pink” night (they have this at the Roundup to support breast cancer treatments). Cimmiyotti’s has been around a while. In the past, I am certain it had a lively “parlor” atmosphere, if you catch my drift. Most of the walls either have old timey red wallpaper or, in the back, there is even a wall with velvet on it. You could just imagine the girls in gaudy dresses previously present. When we ate there, the women seemed well behaved, as they were mostly waitressing or seating new tables. This was Thursday night and thank goodness we had reservations as the line was out the door.
We had good entrees, good service and I had a nice local (San Francisco) ale. It was expensive but worth it to be able to walk around and see the place. Plus, because it was Roundup week, they had the back parking lot roped off and an additional bar set up outside. This was in addition to the live band which would start up a little later.
I was sort of in a fog with traveling, so it wasn’t until the following day that I realized how massive the Roundup was.
Day Two: We started as many Rounduppers do, with breakfast in Stillman Park. during Roundup week the local VFW post sets up enormous grills in the park and feeds an average of 4,000 people each morning! Zoicks! They flip the pancakes right there and plop them on your plate. Then they ask how you want your eggs and they put them on your plate. Finally coffee and ham round out the offerings. There is live music (they played many older songs as we went there on both days) as well.
Because this was Friday, it was the day of the big parade. By the way, let me interrupt myself for a moment. The Pendleton Roundup is the largest rodeo in the U.S. and it is second only to Calgary as one of the largest in North America. On Friday, the announced attendance was 16.5 K and then on Saturday, the place was sold out with almost 18 thousand in attendance. And everyone (except a few tourists like myself) is dolled up or wearing cowboy boots, cowboy hats, big belt buckles, jeans and button up long sleeve shirts. So you can imagine what a show it is. Okay, now back to my narrative.
Friday is the day of the parade. And it seems everyone shows up. Seriously. The parade traveled a couple miles, and every roadside space was occupied with lawn chairs, blankets, little tiny kiddie chairs (so cute!) or benches (there are hundreds of benches sponsored by local businesses which are all over Pendleton during the Roundup). And these seats came out early, as I guess people wanted front row seats! And when I say everyone shows up, I also mean in the parade.
The University of Oregon is at least four hours away, and Oregon State is even further, and yet there were horse drawn carts for both schools. (Oh, there are no vehicles allowed in the parade.) Plus various deans and both school Presidents rode by! Wow! Can anyone see UVa’s President riding a horse in a parade? Talk about coming down to earth?! Plus there were Senators, Judges, future hopeful politicians, the Mayor of Pendleton rode by, along with at least seven marching bands. There is an Indian reservation nearby, so each of those three tribes were represented (the Umatilla, the Cayuse and the Walla Walla peoples). There was the Pendleton Roundup court including the beautiful Queen and her four Princesses, plus there were Indian Princesses, all competent riders. There were many carts and carriages loaded up with people – each representing a different group or high school, etc. And they all threw candy so the kids were pleased! Finally, the Conferated Tribes of the Reservation have a large hotel and casino (the reservation employs 7,000 people) and of course they had a large wagon of Native American candy chuckers. 🙂 The parade lasted at least 90 minutes, and as you can imagine, it was followed by several city street cleaner trucks.
We took a little break, knowing it would be a long day, and then around 12:30 made our way to the Roundup grounds.
I will describe these in the next post.