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Volume 20 No. 46
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Fan festival debuting at National Finals Rodeo

The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association starts its year-end Wrangler National Finals Rodeo this week with expectations of another sold-out event and organizers in host Las Vegas increasing the activity around the finale.

This year marks the 28th time the NFR has been staged in Las Vegas. The event, which begins Thursday and runs through Dec. 15 at the Thomas and Mack Center, has sold out more than 250 consecutive performances. Last year, the competition attracted 175,275 fans, with about 45,000 of those fans coming from out of town.

The PRCA is riding a sellout streak at its annual year-end rodeo in Las Vegas.
Photo by: AP IMAGES
New this year in conjunction with the NFR will be an exhibit called Cowboy FanFest, opening at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Several stages will showcase western lifestyle with live auctions, music, interactive booths and roping demonstrations. The new offering joins the annual Cowboy Christmas Gift Show, which features nearly 400 vendors located throughout 300,000 square feet of the convention center. Both attractions are hosted by Las Vegas Events.

For the competition itself, this year marks the second time the NFR will draw its TV coverage from Great American Country. PRCA Commissioner Karl Stressman said the relationship with GAC allows the association a certain degree of consistency in the way it can showcase its athletes. GAC airs in about 60 million households.

ESPN had aired the NFR, along with other PRCA events, until 2011.

“Sometimes, depending on the draw of the stock and lots of other elements, we don’t always get the consistent superstars in our short rounds or last performances of our rodeo,” Stressman said. “It’s difficult for our consumers and fans to follow specific athletes on television. We needed the opportunity to be a true partner and have a little more creative opportunity.”

The PRCA has about 5,300 active competitors and sanctions around 600 events annually. Stressman, who’s been the governing body’s commissioner since 2008, called the past year the PRCA’s strongest. He points to the increase in contestants despite rising participation costs as a key indicator of the PRCA’s growth.

“Our sanctioning fees that are a part of the rodeo commitments have increased,” Stressman said. “The positive response [to the fees] in a down economy is really what people are looking at.”

Also growing are the number of annual PRCA events and the total payout from those competitions. The PRCA had a net gain of 19 sanctioned rodeos in its 2012 season compared to 2011, and the annual payout increased to $39.3 million from $38.8 million in 2011.

This year’s Wrangler NFR payout will be $6.1 million, up $125,000 from last year.

Wrangler, title sponsor of the NFR, is represented by Raleigh-based agency French West Vaughan. Account supervisor Katie Johnson said the NFR being in Las Vegas at the same time as NASCAR’s year-end awards event provides unique opportunities for the PRCA event attendees.

“NASCAR is a really big thing here in Las Vegas around this time,” Johnson said. “We have some connections over at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, so we’re doing some cool things with cowboys and cars and giving rodeo fans the experience of getting to hang out with the cowboys. They’re celebrities to them in that world, so we want to offer them that unique experience.”

Additionally, to accommodate the number of non-ticket-holders who come to town during the NFR, more than 40 hotels and casinos throughout Las Vegas plan to host NFR viewing parties during the event’s run.

Wrangler plans to use the new Cowboy FanFest as an added platform, hosting Rodeo 101 demonstrations with PRCA cowboys. The company also plans to donate autographed memorabilia for a live auction benefiting the Wrangler Tough Enough to Wear Pink campaign, which supports the fight against breast cancer.