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Round-Up denied F-15 flyover

U.S. Representatives make case that rodeo is both a national sport event and patriotic holiday.
Antonio Sierra

East Oregonian

Published on May 26, 2015 6:29PM

Last changed on May 26, 2015 9:44PM

A pair of Oregon Air National Guard F-15 fighter jets fly over the Pendleton Round-Up Arena before the start of the rodeo in 2007.

EO file photo

A pair of Oregon Air National Guard F-15 fighter jets fly over the Pendleton Round-Up Arena before the start of the rodeo in 2007.

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After two years of putting the tradition on hold, the U.S. Air Force is resuming flyovers by F-15 fighter jets at sporting events.

But the Round-Up will not be one of them.

The Air Force recently denied the Round-Up’s request for a flyover, citing a new policy that restricts flyovers to national sporting events and patriotic holiday events.

In a letter to Air Force Secretary Deborah James, U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, argued the Round-Up met both requirements.

“The Pendleton Round-Up attracts visitors from across the United States, boasting ticket sales to individuals in 44 states and Washington, D.C. last year alone,” they wrote. “The event is also live streamed by the Wrangler Network and had the most viewers of any rodeo broadcasted on the website nationwide last year. Given these impressive statistics, it’s hard to understand how the Air Force does not consider Pendleton Round-Up a national sporting event. And since the requested flyover is just one day after National POW/MIA Recognition Day, it should more than qualify as a patriotic flyover.”

Carl Culham. Round-Up director of publicity, said the Round-Up usually contacts Pendleton’s U.S. congressional delegation to help them secure a flyover.

Despite the delegation’s lobbying efforts to reverse the Air Force’s decision, the numbers aren’t in the Round-Up’s favor.

According to Jennifer Bentley, the Air Force Press Office Chief of Public Outreach, the Air Force typically receives 5,000 flyover requests per year. This year, the Air Force approved 450.

This follows two years where the Air Force suspended flyovers completely due to budgetary constraints.

Previously, the Air Force planes flew over the Round-Up before the championship on Saturday.

While he understands the economic bind the Air Force is in, Culham said people unfamiliar with the Round-Up just don’t understand the impact the event has.

“This is a rodeo like no other,” he said.

For the Round-Up to qualify as a national sporting event, Bentley said it would need to be televised through traditional media like broadcast and cable networks.

Additionally, the Round-Up can’t qualify for the patriotic holiday requirement because it isn’t specifically held to honor National POW/MIA Recognition Day.

Although the Round-Up might not get a flyover this year, both sides are amenable to possible flyovers in the future.

Bentley said the Air Force wants to expand flyovers in the years to come while Culham said the Round-Up intends to continue to apply for them.

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Contact Antonio Sierra at asierra@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0836.



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