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NFR rodeo turns Vegas upside down!

Dec 3, 2002 2:33 AM

   It’s that time of the year again!

   The Wranglers National Finals Rodeo (NFR) transforms the Las Vegas landscape with hip-huggin’ jeans, snakeskin boots and Stetson hats as cowboys and cowgirls from across North America invade town for the championship rodeo and related events.

   For almost an entire year, dreams were being created in Denver, and on the first weekend of November, only those on top of their rugged craft get the invitation to ride and rope at the greatest rodeo event on the planet, Dec. 6-15, at the Thomas and Mack in Las Vegas.

   Every year, seasons are made and lost in November with the pressure of entering the period on the dreaded “bubble” of making, or not making, the storied Las Vegas event.

   Sometimes called the “Superbowl of Rodeos,” the NFR takes place at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of UNLV. Throughout the year, members of the Professional Cowboy’s Rodeo Association (PRCA) sought to qualify among the top 15 finishers in each of seven rodeo events: saddle bronc riding, bull riding, bareback riding, calf roping, team roping, steer wrestling and barrel racing.

   The top 15 in each event compete for more than $3 million in prize money. Last year over 140,000 people attended the NFR, and more than 13 million viewers tuned in for all 10 rounds of the finals broadcast on ESPN.

   Meanwhile, Las Vegas put on its best lizard skin boots, felt hats and engraved silver buckles to help welcome the well-paying rodeo fans to town.

   Contributing to the rodeo atmosphere, the Las Vegas casinos typically transform themselves into country and western dance halls: country music is piped into the casinos, cocktail waitresses and other hotel workers don western wear, and top name country talent fills the showrooms.

   Other events during NFR include the Miss Rodeo America Pageant Horsemanship Competition, the annual PRCA Convention, the Cowboy Christmas Gift Show, and the 17th annual Copenhagen Spurs and Spikes Golf Invitational at Las Vegas Golf Club.

   Following is a schedule of events: