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Pendleton is a cool Western Town

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PENDLETON, Ore--   Pendleton is a small  town in  Umatilla County with about 17,515 residents.  But the history of the town is what makes it one of the coolest towns in Eastern Oregon.

Mostly known for it's Round Up Rodeo, the city celebrated it's 100th rodeo in 2010.  "We had just a little over 59 thousand people actually attend round up itself in 2010, and we have a seating capacity of about 16 thousand in our stadium," says Chrissy Nelson with the Round Up and Happy Canyon Office.

The event and town together have won many awards for their Western Ways;  "Best Large Outdoor Rodeo Committee" by PRCA, "Best Professional Rodeo" True West,  "#1 Best Western Town" True West Magazine, "#1 Best Cowboy Destination Vacation"  by Western Horseman, "One of Eleven Rodeos worth Driving To" Cowboys and Indians, and "2010 Business of the Year" Pendleton Chamber of Commerce.

With such prestigious awards, comes perhaps one of the most famous cowboy stores in the country, Hamley & Co.   The historic building in downtown Pendleton was nearly 10,000 square feet of space, displaying custom made saddles,  horse track, western wear, art, silver and belts.  Hamley's also has the Slick Fork Saloon with a bar imported from the Thorton in Butte, Montana.  The last owner of the bar went to jail for killing a man who carved his initials into the bar once owned by one of  the copper kings.  "Teddy Roosevelt was a regular, many other famous Westerners from Charlie Russell, to Wyatt Earp to Annie Oakley , Buffalo Bill all came to the Thornton in Butte, says Parley Pearce one of the owners of Hamley's.

Another historical part of the city is the Pendleton Woolen mills around for the last 102 years.  "As we get further into the summer, we'll probably have 500-600 people a month that come through just for tours from all around the world," says Jennie Wolfe, who works at the store and factory.  She says half her client base are the Native Americans who still use the blankets.

Pendleton is also well known for it's underground world.  The city  had a red light district, which as late as 1947 counted 20 brothels in the heart of the city.

The Wildhorse Resort and Casino is also undergoing a $45 million dollar expansion expected to be completed by September.

And since the Confederated Tribes make up a big majority of the population and are the biggest employer in Umatilla County, there are a lot of dedications to the city's rich Native American Culture.    Bobbie Conner, the Executive Director of the Tamastslikt Cultural Institute says people come from all over to learn about the area.

"The Tamastslikt Cultural Institute tells the national history of the confederation of the Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla Tribes.  It tells the story of the arrivals of the newcomers on the Oregon Trail, the missionaries, the arrival of Lewis and Clark into our homeland," says Conner.