Rodeo Town Pendleton Aims to Lasso Hipsters Year-Round

A peek inside a new tourism campaign targeting Portland millennials.

Photography by Caitlin Collins April 29, 2016

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Pendleton tourists: grab yourself some fancy hand-tooled duds like what the locals wear and you'll blend right in. Just look at these Portland models!

Pat Beard, event coordinator of Travel Pendleton, has something in common with young kids moving to the big city, or anyone emulating a more tastefully beardy, fixie-powered, locally curated thing: he, too, is chasing a hipster lifestyle. Or, more precisely, the contents of that hand-tooled billfold. Last year, Travel Pendleton devised a tourist campaign aimed at the lucrative and elusive millennial consumer—specifically targeting the Seattle-dwelling variety. This year, Travel Pendleton aims to rope in Portlanders. (Scroll down for the agency's kinda sweet little video starring four Portland models.)

“Millennials represent 25 percent of [North America’s] population, 22 percent of disposable income in America, and they want to see things, experience things, firsthand,” explains Beard, who has lived just outside Pendleton since the late ’80s. His agency uses the term “tripster”—a cheeky combination of “trip” and “hipster,” and no relation to this blog, like, obviously)—to describe Travel Pendleton's target market.

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So what should the young, hip, well-remunerated city slicker expect for the three-hour drive from Portland (which Travel Pendleton suggests you take in a cherry-red Volkswagen convertible)? You likely know Pendleton for its annual rodeo event—the Pendleton Round-Up—now in its 106th year, and maybe also as the hub for such Kinfolk-tastic brands as Pendleton Wool and Pendleton Whisky. But according to Beard,  Pendleton is well-worth the trip even outside cattle-roping season. “Pendleton’s not contrived—it’s genuine," says Beard. "It’s kind of an island of reality: it’s not high-fashion, there’s not a lot of paparazzi, but there’s connection to other people.”

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Cowboy hat? Check. Big belt buckle? Check. Volkswagen bug? Check. Let 'er ride.

As Travel Pendleton sharpened its focus to Portland millennials, Beard helped devise a video-and-ad campaign to attract 18–34-year-olds, starring a quartet of Portland models who act out a series of videos, episodic in nature, as they “wander” around town. The girls get custom Western boots, the boys head to a bar to down Pendleton Whisky straight, and the whole group reconvenes to eat dinner in the booth of a darkly-lit restaurant as cowboy hats frame their laughing faces. The abundance of locally-made specialty items (the words “one-of-a-kind” on repeat), a rich history (“cowboys and Indians,” says Beard), and a selection of truly varying events (Bike Week for motorcyclists, a dog show, and, of course, the rodeo) begin to build a case for the small Oregon town. But lest you feel Pendleton only likes us for our money, consider Beard’s insistence on genuine human connection: 

“The population in Pendleton has never really grown for the last hundred years, but we’ve got about 1,200 hotel rooms here," Beard says. "We’re great hosts, we share our hospitality, and we figure out a place to put everybody. Portland is our family—we’re just down the gorge.”


Road Trip to Pendleton, Oregon from Travel Pendleton on Vimeo.

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