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Unique vendors look for Round-Up niche

Zipline operator, antler artisan and cowboy masseuse try to lasso customers
Antonio Sierra

East Oregonian

Published on September 12, 2017 7:51PM

Last changed on September 12, 2017 7:54PM

Lisa Porter cruises down a zip line operated by her family. The ride is located in a gravel lot on Southwest Court Place between Oxford Suites and Wal-Mart.

Staff photo by Kathy Aney

Lisa Porter cruises down a zip line operated by her family. The ride is located in a gravel lot on Southwest Court Place between Oxford Suites and Wal-Mart.

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Caleb Porter Jr. flips upside down on a zip line operated by her family. The ride is located in a gravel lot on Southwest Court Place between Oxford Suites and Wal-Mart.

Staff photo by Kathy Aney

Caleb Porter Jr. flips upside down on a zip line operated by her family. The ride is located in a gravel lot on Southwest Court Place between Oxford Suites and Wal-Mart.

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Lisa Porter (left) and her little sister Ruthy cruise down a zip line operated by their family. The ride is located in a gravel lot on Southwest Court Place between Oxford Suites and Wal-Mart.

Staff photo by Kathy Aney

Lisa Porter (left) and her little sister Ruthy cruise down a zip line operated by their family. The ride is located in a gravel lot on Southwest Court Place between Oxford Suites and Wal-Mart.

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Ashlee Hatch, a massage therapist from Idaho, gives a full-body massage to Sadie Garner, Blue Mountain Community College softball player and friend. The bulk of Hatch’s clients are rodeo athletes.

Staff photo by Kathy Aney

Ashlee Hatch, a massage therapist from Idaho, gives a full-body massage to Sadie Garner, Blue Mountain Community College softball player and friend. The bulk of Hatch’s clients are rodeo athletes.

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During the second full week of September in Pendleton, the cowboy hats, leather boots and food carts come out in force.

But amongst the legion of Western apparel booths and snack shacks, some vendors are selling a very different type of product.

At one new pop-up business in an empty lot near Wal-Mart, country music blares over the loud speakers and some of the workers are wearing cowboy hats. But rodeo atmosphere isn’t the main draw. Late Monday afternoon, four customers pay Porter Family Entertainment for a chance to climb a ride a zipline from a 25-foot tower the business erected on the graveled lot.

The customers bumped fists and took videos during their descent before gently landing at the bottom, gently jostling the tower as they wait to be unharnessed.

Standing at the top of the tower, Caleb Porter joked that customers were getting an authentic rodeo smell, referencing the empty horse trailers that surrounded the zipline.

A Pendleton High School graduate, Porter moved away when he joined the Marine Corps and eventually settled in Yuma, Arizona.

Now a superintendent for a commercial construction company, Porter decided to buy the zipline three weeks ago and scrambled to obtain all the proper permits and licenses.

“As a superintendent, I know how to pull things together,” he said.

Porter took two weeks off work and brought his wife and family back home for the Round-Up, making the zipline available to the public for the first time.

The whole family is involved in the operation: Porter’s wife, Sabrina, handles customer intake, Porter harnasses people onto the zipline and the kids get free rides when business slows down.

Porter acknowledged the financial risk he took when he bought the zipline, but he hopes it will pay off with an even larger-scale dream: an indoor playground business.

Just a block away from the Round-Up Arena, the Jones family is trying to figure out if their shop is a good fit for rodeo week.

Mike and Becky Jones run Mikes Antler Stuff, which is situated beside a taco truck, lemonade stand and jerky booth in the small parking lot for The Muffler Shop on Southwest Court Avenue.

The wares Mikes Antler Stuff sells are self-explanatory: products made of deer and elk antlers, mainly chandeliers and lamps.

A retired wildland firefighter, Mike said the business evolved from a hobby and he now sells his antler products from Pendleton to customers all over the country through word of mouth.

The Joneses said it’s a lot of work to put together a Round-Up booth and the locals often balk at the product prices, which range from $5 to $1,000, thinking they could do it themselves.

“Go online and see the prices on (the antlers),” Mike said. “It’d scare you.”

While most vendors primarily cater to tourists, Country Road Massage is after a different clientele: cowboys.

Camped out in a lot near Club 24 Fitness, Country Road provides deep tissue massage to rodeo contestants looking to recover from the aches and pains of their sport.

Based out of Dayton, Idaho, Country Road owner Ashlee Hatch said she’s been a masseuse for 11 years but only started taking her act on the road last year.

In that time, Hatch has provided massages to cowboys in Cheyenne, Wyoming, Ellensburg, Washington and Caldwell, Idaho and more.

Hatch said she aims to give her clients a sense of familiarity and consistency instead of having to seek out an unknown masseuse in the town they’re competing in.

This is her first time in Pendleton, but Hatch knows what to do.

“This isn’t my first rodeo,” she said.

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







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