There will be a new horse in the parade when the Pendleton Round-Up directors ride by next September.

For the very first time, a cowgirl has joined the cowboys on the board of directors.

Heather Corey was elected a new director at the annual directors meeting this week.

This is a very fitting way for the Round-Up to begin a new century. It was time, past time actually, for women to sit on the board as voting members.

Everyone knows women have long provided key leadership. Round-Up director wives, for example, have shared the duties of planning and running the rodeo with their spouses since the beginning.

Still, being a voting member is different. It is a recognition of the key role women also play in making the Round-Up one of the best rodeo events in the country.

The move to add the first woman member to the board signals the Round-Up is no longer just an “old boys’ club.” The image of a bunch of whiskey-drinking, good ol’ boys has really never been accurate.

The board works darn hard, putting in hundreds of hours of time and a great deal of their own resources to assure success. Sure, it is prestigious and fun to be on the inside of the Round-Up. It is great to be close to world-class cowboys and attend the best rodeos in the West representing Pendleton. But the job also means long hours, pressure and a lot of tough decisions.

Now the club door is open to both men and women. And that means a doubling of the leadership pool available to assure the Round-Up continues into the next century as one of the very best in the nation.

The Round-Up is all about history. And so it is fitting the first female board member brings her own family history to the board.

First, she can ride a horse. Corey was queen of the Round-Up back in 1974. She lived that heart-pounding moment of racing across the grass, jumping her horse over the infield barrier and making an abrupt stop in front of the rodeo crowd. You have to be a superb horseperson to accomplish this feat.

Her daughter, Cydney, was queen in 2004.

Corey also is a third-generation director. Her grandfather, John Hales, was Round-Up president from 1949 to 1951. Her father, Bob Hales, was president from 1971 to 1972. Her brother, Mark, also served on the board of directors.

The new director already has been a volunteer for more than 40 years. Her first board duties will be to take charge of the queen and court.

Three other talented directors joined the board with Corey. Rob Collins, Randy Leonard and Randy Thomas also were ratified at the Round-Up’s annual stockholders’ meeting. They, too, bring a great deal of experience to the board.

Dennis Hunt will take over as president, replacing Randy Severe. Ron Paul, Carl Peterson and Mike Thorne also retired from the board this year.

Randy Severe leaves the Round-Up in a strong financial position.

The Round-Up generated $1.12 million in ticket sales in 2010. Sponsorships, retail sales and all aspects of the financial picture set new records. The Round-Up finishes the year with $1.5 million in assets and $494,573 in debt.

Congratulations are due the retiring board members and President Severe for leaving the Round-Up primed and ready for another century of success.

And we can all shout a loud “yee haw” to celebrate the new history made this week when the board broke the barrier and elected a woman member.

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