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Wet your whistle ringside

The Round-Up Arena contains a handful of hard alcohol venues

By Emily Olson

East Oregonian

Published on September 8, 2017 4:24PM

EO file photoMike Ledbetter stands in front of the newest addition to the beverage options at the rodeo, The Old Loading Chute Saloon, before the 2016 Round-Up.

EO file photoMike Ledbetter stands in front of the newest addition to the beverage options at the rodeo, The Old Loading Chute Saloon, before the 2016 Round-Up.

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The Let ’er Buck Room

There’s an old adage that goes, “When the legend gets bigger than the truth, write the legend.” It could have been said about the Let ’er Buck Room — it serves nearly as many tales as drinks.

The watering hole is open one week a year, but its 26 bartenders serve more than 34,000 drinks. That’s not water, pop or beer. It’s Pendleton Whisky and 44 North Vodka.

The room, anchored by one of the longest bars in North America, packs in 1,200 guests. With that volume of inebriation, carousal and debauchery abound.

“Everybody has a story about the Let ’er Buck Room. They’re not all good, not all bad, but they’re always interesting,” said Mike Ledbetter, the Let ’er Buck Room director. It’s tough to tell fact from folklore. There’s stories about a man riding in on horseback to settle a bet and women removing tops for giveaway T-shirts. Ledbetter said they tightened rules in the early 2000s to satisfy the Oregon Liquor Control Commission and fire marshal. They don’t let drinks leave the room, given its location under the south grandstand, where families often congregate.

“People stay in there all day long and meet people they haven’t seen in years,” Ledbetter said.

The Let ’er Buck Room was built in 1958 as a private whiskey bar for Round-Up stockholders. It opened to the public in 1969, finding a need to expand in the late 1970s and again in 2007. It’s still tough to wade through rowdy crowds and find a spot. But those who do say it’s worth the whiskey — and the stories.

Strip’n Chute

The Strip’n Chute bar was dreamed up three years ago as a grab-and-go option for folks looking to drink hard alcohol without missing the rodeo action.

Ledbetter explained that it was once a storage closet, measuring only 11 by 17 feet. He and General Manager Casey Beard decided to convert it to a bar as a service to audiences on the west side of the stadium. It was also a good way to test whether folks could handle more than Coors at their seats.

“I thought, if I can sell $5,000 worth of whiskey, I’d be happy,” Ledbetter said. The Strip’n Chute made $32,000 in its first year, and imbibers “minded their P’s and Q’s,” Ledbetter said.

The bar has only increased in popularity since, with lines extending out the door. Kenny Lebsock, a long-time Round-Up volunteer who serves as bar manager, said they’ll continue to improve the space.

“We’re always looking for how we can serve the ticket-buyers better,” Lebsock said. “We like to do everything we can to make it a real positive experience for people.”

Section DD Bar

The newest bar on the block, the Section DD Bar, is a beer garden, whiskey joint and cigar shop all in one.

The bar opened last year with the name “The Old Loading Chute” and was met with instant success. Perched on the east end of the stadium, the saloon-style space boasts the best view of the Indian Relay Races and barrel racing.

“The DD Bar is comfortable. It’s an open-air bar where you can stand around and talk to people while watching the rodeo,” said Lebsock. “It’s a great social atmosphere.”

Lebsock compares the Section DD to the bars you might find at a baseball stadium, which strike the right balance between beverages, conversation and the view. They offer two Hop Valley microbrews and all Pendleton Whisky products.

Ledbetter said they’re planning to improve the Section DD this year with a better viewing platform and shade cover.


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