The Cowboy Channel, and everyone that works for them, did a great job of covering the rodeo, pre-rodeo interviews with competitors, and post-rodeo developments in each event as it unfolded. South Point Casino & Hotel, where I stayed, also showed it daily on television in my room – but I went to Las Vegas to see it all. The trade shows, the Junior World Show, the Benny Binion Bucking Horse Sale, the Gold Card Room prior to each performance, and much more at various locations across the city. The PRCA Awards Dinner when the animals, rodeos and individuals “of the Year” were announced. I also attended the Gold Card Luncheon, World of Rodeo Reunion and the Rodeo Cowboy Alumni Gathering.
Following the Miss Rodeo America pageant until the new Miss Rodeo America was chosen and seeing the 30-some competitors here and there going through all that is required of them, was interesting and the candidates were delightful. Miss Rodeo Colorado, Hailey Frederiksen, was finally chosen to represent the sport for 2022. Runner-ups were Miss Rodeo Idaho – Texas – Nebraska – Oklahoma. They all were outstanding young ladies and such an asset to the sport of rodeo. Miss Rodeo America, Jordan Tierney , and Miss Rodeo Canada, Alisha Erickson, for years 2020 and 2021, because the covid pandemic did not allow that much rodeo activity in 2020, were such a delight. Alisha Erickson spent each night in the Gold Card Room visiting with those attending and helping me with the program. It was evident why she was chosen as she is such a versatile young lady with a smile that lit up the room as well as a beautiful singing voice .
The top fifteen cowboys and cowgirls, in their respective events to compete at this year’s finale were the best! Their passion and dedication to their sport is amazing. Their abilities to perform certainly show the many hours they have spent to be the ‘top of the 2021 crop’. Watching the timed event horses, waiting for their rider’s signal to “go” , without breaking the barrier, is fun to observe. Their eyes darting here and there, ears pointing toward the sky in anticipation, and an occasional lip quiver certainly made one know they were as passionate and eager to perform as their rider. The barrel racing horses were just as involved. It was evident the cowgirl and her steed had spent many hours in preparation for the quick thirteen or fourteen seconds they spent in the arena circling those three barrels. What speed! And the broncs, what can I say. They love to show what they can do and each and every one bucks his or her heart out to do their very best for 8 seconds. Not only are they as professional as their riders, but their owners take such good care of them they look like show horses. No one dare say ranchers and stock owners don’t take the very best care of their livelihood. Common sense.
The friends and family that came were such support for the competitors. The new friends you meet along the way, whether they sat next to you during the performances or your brief encounter in a hotel elevator, make the days so short and fun! The Casinos during this time have nothing but country and western musical performers from Reba McEntire, who grew up with a competing steer roping father and brother to Shania Twain, and so many more. Ninety per cent of the people were sporting the western uniform -- cowboy hats, boots, and an array of colorful shirts and Wranglers.
The Trade Shows scattered in numerous places throughout the city that never sleeps, have concessionaires that sell everything from turquoise necklaces to horse trailers with living quarters. Horse blankets – wild rags – spurs & saddles – all in various colors and finishes. The aisles were crowded with shoppers, pushing strollers, pulling wagons full of toddlers wearing cowboy hats so large they almost completely shadow their tiny forms.
It was a site to behold! It was exhilarating, exhausting and so much fun – whether you are a ‘died in the wool’ rodeo fan, a real cowboy or cowgirl, or a novice attending your first rodeo and getting your first glimpse of the ‘western way of life’. As a rodeo historian I must say the rodeo world has spent nearly 150 years in the making to get to this level. It hasn’t happened by luck or chance, it is because thousands of rodeo cowboys and cowgirls have spent countless hours, in numerous capacities, improving and developing the sport to what it is today. I can hardly wait to go back next December! God Bless Cowboys, Cowgirls, the Western Way of Life and God Bless America!