Let 'er Buck means big bucks for Pendleton

PENDLETON, Ore. -- From now until Saturday night, the cry of "Let 'er Buck" will echo through the streets of Pendleton.

That's the surest sign the Round-Up is underway. And no one is more grateful than city leaders. Let 'er Buck translates to big bucks.

The Round-Up is the richest 4-day rodeo in the country, giving out a half-million dollars in prize money. But that pales in comparison to the 50 to 60 million dollars this event means to the city.

A thousand hotel rooms in Pendleton and all of them are sold out.

Then there are the special business licenses for each vendor outside the arena.

Jim Fagan sells BBQ and he says, "If you can get 80-percent of the people walking by you and 20-percent buy a sandwich you can make quite a bit of money doing that.".

This city of 16,000 will swell close to more than twice its size by Saturday night.

The Pendleton Chamber of Commerce a conservative estimate has one person spending close to two-thousand dollars for four days at the Round-Up.

Donna Grimes has been volunteering here for 40-years and she gets it.

"A lot of people don't understand. It's Round-Up. And that's all you need to say. It's like Christmas", says Grimes.

The history here goes back over a century. The encampment on the back-side of the arena has more than 300 tipis, turning it into an annual re-union at the site of the very first rodeo.

"Our tribes got done gathering foods as well as the farmers getting down with their crops and that's how it formed with that little get together", says Mitch Pond, a Umatilla Tribal member.

103 years later and not much has changed. Which sets the Round-up apart. Putting it in a class by itself.

Randy Thomas is the Round-Up Media Director and he says, "It's the only rodeo left that has a grass arena. So that's a little different for our cowboys that come."

And cowboy, Zack Justesen says that levels the playing field, "Guys come here and rodeo all year and they get in the grass and they panic."

For steer wrestler Guy Smith, coming here is a no-brainer. "Just cause it's so historic and nothing's changed from the original", says Smith.

Well, there's still the horses and steers and calves. But one thing has certainly changed from 1910. This 21st century Round-Up is a cash cow.