I just returned from two weeks in Las Vegas for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo and many of the additional events that happen during that time. I hosted the Gold Card Room on the main floor of Thomas & Mack Stadium, which is sponsored by the ProRodeo Hall of Fame & Museum of the American Cowboy and Boyd Gaming for those cowboys and cowgirls who have reached the age of 40 and spent a certain number of years competing or working in PRCA, RCA or in the Cowboys’ Turtle Association. It was packed every night and we have lots of fun from 5 PM until the rodeo starts at 6:45 PM. I can’t believe we can pack so much in to an hour and 45 minutes. There is a buffet meal served each evening, a bar, and one of the rodeo announcers, Bob Tallman or Will Rasmussen comes in to help me at 6 PM. We give prizes, by Boyd Gaming, ProHall of Fame, Montana Silversmith and various attendees who have books or CDs to donate, to those in attendance. We also have Miss Rodeo Canada, which this year was Samantha Stokes, to help us. She was a delightful young, beautiful gal from Alberta, who visited with most every table of folks during her time with us. Accompanying her was Miss Rodeo Australia, Danika Boland, who also helped us. Then the cowboys and cowgirls all scurry to their seats, unless they have trouble getting to their seats because of trouble walking or handling the stairs, if so they remain in the Gold Card Room with me to watch the rodeo on closed-circuit TV. It is not the same as being upstairs where the action is, but the consideration, by Boyd Gaming & the ProHall of Fame, for westerners, who have reached that age where their limbs just don’t accommodate them like they used to, is a real blessing.
A Gold Card Reunion & World of Rodeo Gathering (not to be confused with the Gold Card Room during the rodeo) was held in Friday, December 11th, from 11 AM to 3 PM, at the Palms Hotel, sponsored by the PRCA and Las Vegas Events. Time was spent with lots of visiting with old friends not seen “in a coon’s age”, a buffet lunch, Audio & Visual presentation, a Silent and Live Auction of historical rodeo relics, western art, Navajo rugs and more. I am guessing, but the ballroom was packed and I’d guess around 600+ people attended.
I was asked by the “She’s Gone Country” radio program, ramrodded by Becky & Vicki Christensen, to have some of the Rodeo Clown Reunion attendees (yep, they were all former bullfighters, barrelmen and funnymen) to their program performed in front of a live audience in the Mandalay Bay Trade Show. George Doak, Melvin Fields and Tom LeGrand were with me, and also on the panel were J.J. Harrison, Ted Kimzey, and Rob Smets. It was an hour long laugh-filled time with all adding their humor to the mix.
During my stay ‘home’ is a suite at The Orleans, with Liz Kesler, a dear friend and the ramrod of the “Cowboy Reunion” held the last three days of the Finals Rodeos, at The Orleans. I can’t say enough about the service and attention to detail that The Orleans takes in making their guests comfortable and at ease. (I might add this is a Boyd Gaming hotel & casino).
There are so many happenings in Las Vegas during the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo I can’t begin to name them all. South Point was the host hotel for the PRCA, and location of the PRCA convention, meetings, Gala, and more. The owner, Michael Gaughan provides the meal and ballroom for the annual Ladies Luncheon that holds auctions for the Justin Crisis Fund and more. South Point leases their arena to hold a team roping competition during several days. There is a trade show, too. The annual Benny Binion Bronc and Bull Sale is getting larger each year. I understand the sale brought in over a million dollars this year with the top bronc being bought for over $60,000. The high-dollar bronc’s ‘buck’ must have been outstanding to bring such a price.
Cowboy Christmas, held at the Las Vegas Convention Center, and The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation joined forces and moved the event to another section of this mammoth building. Basically, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation trade booths were on the second floor and the Cowboy Christmas booths were on the ground floor. It took some getting used to, but most of us that have been attending for some time found the vendors we always frequent and had a brief visit although they were very busy. Lots of great products are for sale from western designed couture, to western art, to saddles, to trailers with living quarters and hauling abilities for lots of stock! It’s a rancher’s mecca!
In addition this year there were Free-Style Bullfights held at the Convention Center and at Mandalay Bay during the ten days. This allowed some novice bullfighters, and some who have had plenty of practice, to fight bulls and be judged by Miles Hare and other great bullfighters from the past. A Showcase for Rodeo Clowns is always something I’ll attend because in my research I’ve learned they were often ‘taken for granted’, especially in their chores of the bullfighting.
All in all it was a fun-filled 13 days and it flew by. I think anyone interested in the western-way-of-life, whether they are a full-time rancher, weekend rancher or someone from the city that just admires the west, this December week in Las Vegas holds a great deal of fun-filled activities for everyone. By the way, next year’s dates for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo are December 1 through 10. See you in Vegas!
May your Christmas be blessed with family and friends, and the New Year be full of good tidings and great joy. We are so very fortunate to live in the greatest country in the world!