PENDLETON — Randy Bracher will tell you he never aspired to be president of the Pendleton Round-Up Association.
Those who know him well believe him without hesitation. Bracher is a low-key, unflashy guy who speaks quietly but still has clout. And, however reluctantly or humbly he arrived at his current position, Bracher is the man.
“They asked me if I would do it and I kindly accepted,” he said with a grin. “I’m looking for a challenge that gets me out of my comfort zone.”
A year or more as president of one of the most iconic rodeos in the country should do the trick. The president is the rock star of local rodeo leadership, the ring leader and the cheerleader. While General Manager Erika Patton manages the rodeo’s day-to-day details, Bracher will lead the directors on big picture decisions.
Nick Sirovatka, the Round-Up board’s director of competitive events, described Bracher as a boots-on-the-ground type of person.
“He wants to do stuff rather than talk about doing stuff,” Sirovatka said. “He’s more comfortable working than talking about working.”
He said Bracher, elected this fall to succeed Dave O’Neill as president, is an excellent choice, however, because of his extensive rodeo knowledge and deep roots in the community. Leadership skills, such as speaking in front of groups and overseeing 18 directors, are developing quickly.
“He is coming into his own,” Sirovatka said.
Bracher and his brother, Paul, operate Bracher Farms, which raises wheat, alfalfa, seed corn and grass seed. Their father, Cliff, retired several years ago and left day-to-day operations to his sons.
Randy is a fifth-generation Eastern Oregon farmer and rancher. He and his wife, Char, have two children, Sydney, 15, and Blair, 13. Bracher’s great-great-grandfather, James Paul Dorran, began to farm north of Helix after receiving a couple of quarter sections of land in lieu of money for his railroad work. The family expanded its farming footprint with each generation.
Randy and his three siblings grew up on a farm near Cold Springs Creek among a menagerie of horses, cattle, chickens, rabbits and sheep. His father attended to farming while his mother, Judy Bracher, taught elementary school in Hermiston. Randy especially loved his family’s horses and cattle.
“My grandfather was a horseman and cattleman,” Bracher said. “I caught the bug early on.”
More inspiration came from a neighbor who raised bucking horses. As young Bracher helped build pens and do other chores, he learned about the ins and outs of training rough stock.
Bracher said his parents instilled the idea of volunteering early on. As a boy, he played roles in the Happy Canyon Night Show and sorted cattle at the Round-Up. He next served as “the caller on the hill” and later managed “the split board at the barrier.” Those unfamiliar with the terms might want to get a rodeo glossary. Every one of hundreds of jobs, Bracher said, help the rodeo run quickly and smoothly. The key is the cadre of volunteers.
“I’ve been to a lot of rodeos,” he said. “It makes a guy pretty proud of the team we have in Pendleton, the directors and the volunteers who are so passionate.”
In 2012, Bracher started serving on the Round-Up board as livestock director. In 2014, he and O’Neill led a transition in the way the rodeo selected rough stock for the bucking events. Instead of using a primary stock contractor, the rodeo began selecting its own rough stock. Bracher and O’Neill scouted for equine and bovine athletes by gathering intelligence from cowboys and stock contractors and poring over rodeo results. The experiment succeeded. In 2015, the Pendleton Round-Up won the Remuda Award given by the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association for providing the best, most consistent pen of bucking horses.
“We want every contestant who enters Pendleton to have an equal chance to win,” Bracher said. “We spread our wings to get the best we could get in North America.”
Bracher will oversee plenty of other changes during his presidency, some ongoing. A complex being constructed across the street from the Round-Up Arena will house the rodeo’s retail, ticket and administrative operations.
The Round-Up will also expand in another direction on properties purchased west of Southwest 18th Street. The plan is for Blue Mountain Community College to lease the land and build an arena and classroom facility.
Bracher will also oversee a celebration of the rodeo’s 110th year. The experience will involve looking back at the rodeo’s roots and “recognizing the valuable people who got us to where we are.”
There’s no doubt, he said, that the rodeo transformed the town.
“If you’ve been here for any length of time, you know there’s only two times in Pendleton,” he said. “Before Round-Up and after Round-Up.”