Round-Up Arena

The chutes and grandstands sit empty at the Round-Up Grounds on the afternoon of Friday, June 19, 2020, hours after the Pendleton Round-Up announced the cancellation of the 2020 Pendleton Round-Up. The Round-Up Association anticipates the event will go on this year.

PENDLETON — The Pendleton Round-Up Association is projecting confidence in reviving its rodeo for 2021, but its board of directors isn’t yet sharing details on how it plans to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pat Reay, the Round-Up’s publicity director, said the association is planning for a full slate of events during the second full week of September. That means not just the rodeo, but also the kickoff concert, parades and all the other spin-off events that come out of Round-Up week. The Round-Up signaled its confidence in March when it announced that Happy Canyon Arena would host the two-day Xtreme Bulls Tour Finale during Round-Up week.

“We’re cautiously optimistic,” Reay said.

The Round-Up will likely have some sort of safety plan to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 during the rodeo, but Reay said the event is too far out to share details on the plan. Other large events that have happened since the onset of the pandemic have included measures like mask requirements and temperature checks, but Reay said much could change between now and September, so the Round-Up wasn’t ready to commit to anything.

Before canceling last year’s rodeo, the Round-Up submitted a plan to the state that would have included audience temperature checks, sanitation stations throughout the Round-Up Grounds and personal protective equipment for some volunteers and employees.

But by July, the Round-Up made the decision to cancel the rodeo for the first time since World War II.

The association quickly committed to holding the rodeo in 2021, the Round-Up’s 111th year, and Reay said the Round-Up has maintained correspondence with the governor’s office on holding the event this year.

Reay said committee meetings are being held at least twice a week to figure out the logistics of holding the rodeo this year, including a committee that is addressing tribal participation in the Round-Up.

The Round-Up is still five months away, but Umatilla County’s current situation is mixed.

Although the raw number of cases is down significantly from the summer and winter surges the county endured in 2020, the case positivity rate recently ticked up. Additionally, Umatilla County continues to have one of the lowest vaccination rates in the state.

Umatilla County’s data could be critical not just for the Round-Up but for Pendleton’s other major events.

While some smaller events like Jackalope Jamboree and Pendleton Cattle Barons are gearing up for 2021 with some added health precautions, others are still in a holding pattern.

The Pendleton Whisky Music Fest is still set for July 10 with headliners Eric Church and Macklemore, but co-organizer Doug Corey said a recent meeting with the governor’s office didn’t create enough clarity to make organizers certain that it will happen.

One of the Whisky Fest’s concerns is seating capacity. If the state restricts seating too low, organizers might not be able to afford to hold the concert for a second year in the row.

Corey is hoping to get more definitive word from the state in April or May, but he was certain that Whisky Fest would not wait until a couple of weeks before the concert to make a decision.

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