Inside the mind of Bareback Rider Bill Tutor Page 24
Cowboy CHRISTmas CHRISTMAS Never Disappoints
How Sage Amazed Himself
Looking Ahead: WNFR 2018
In Memoriam: Daryle Singletary
The Scene Pages – Experience the Wrangler NFR through Images
Wow! Top 10 Moments of Wrangler NFR 2017
Sage Kimzey Is Amazing, Even to Himself
It’s Not Just a Wrangler NFR Town
Inside the Mind of Bareback Rider Bill Tutor
PUBLISHER Las Vegas Events
COVER DESIGN Eric Berner
PROJECT MANAGER Brian Hurlburt
CONTRIBUTORS Patrick C. Everson, Reid Thompson
DESIGN Christopher Jones CONTRIBUTING EDITOR Matt Jacob
COVER PHOTO CREDIT Kenneth Springer
Boyd Polhamus Drops the Mic
Wrangler NFR Viewing Parties are the Next Best Thing to the T&M
Cowboy Christmas: Nothing But a Good Time
The Next Generation Wrangler NFR Stars Revealed
Fan Value: Wrangler NFR Offers Plenty
Looking Ahead: Wranger NFR 2018 Will Be Epic
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Photos: Junior NFR - Tom Donoghue. Bullfighters Only - Tanner Zarnetski.
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DARYLE SINGLETARY (1971-2018)
ust one week prior to this publication being printed, singer and entertainer Daryle Singletary, a huge supporter of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo and an incredible fan favorite each year during his many appearances, passed away suddenly at his home in Nashville. An entire cowboy and western world was stunned on that Monday morning and struggled to cope about how to move forward without one of the friendliest cowboys to ever ride the planet.
The 2017 Wrangler NFR was extra special to Daryle because there were “so many hats that were hung up”, including Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association commissioner Karl Stressman, another good friend of Daryle’s, and other important people who have helped the NFR so much. He said they were “passing the torch.” Now, we are all left to pass the flame of an icon who left us far too soon at the age of 46. Daryle believed the Wrangler NFR was like a big family reunion and now our
amazing family is without a huge part of our heart and soul. Daryle leaves behind a precious wife, Holly, and four young and wonderful children, 7-year-old twin boys, Mercer and Jonah; 5-year-old daughter, Nora Caroline; and 3-year-old daughter, Charlotte Rose. He ended his note with the following words: “It’s always an honor to be a part of the NFR and I can’t wait to be back later this year.” Daryle, the honor was all ours and you will be remembered more than you know. Rest in peace. Daryle Remembered: “He was an incredible talent and an incredible human. He certain-
“Daryle was like a big teddy bear who left it all on the stage for his fans. He loved hosting ‘Keepin’ it Country’ and it gave his career a new breath of fresh air. He also performed last year at the Hard Rock and didn’t stop playing until 1 am the first night and he sang himself hoarse. He never wanted to quit and each fan to him was special.” – Bo Gardner, Las Vegas Events. “Just got word that Daryle Singletary has passed away. Rest in peace Buddy, you sang country like country should be sung.” -- Charlie Daniels. “Our hearts are breaking at the loss of Daryle Singletary. He was a great friend to us all, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family. -- Grand Old Opry. “Greatest voice in country music. I will miss my friend Daryle Singletary.” -- Flint Rasmussen. Visit NFR social media for donation information.
Photo: Steve Spatafore.
This space was to be dedicated to a heartfelt note from Daryle about his love for the Wrangler NFR. In his writings, he reminisced about watching the NFR as a kid with his father and brother. He also wrote that “it was awesome” having his entire live band, the Ranch Hands, with him last year for 10 days at the Cowboy Corral at the Thomas & Mack Center and also with him during his “Keepin’ It Country” Show at Cowboy Christmas. He also mentioned how special it was to host his show each year at Cowboy Christmas, just prior to the show of his good friend, Flint Rasmussen.
ly loved traditional country music and he lived the lifestyle. He was a true cowboy and roper. In some ways, he was born a generation too late because if he was born earlier, he would be mentioned with the likes of Waylon, Willie and Johnny. His ability to share country and western music with people was a God given talent.” – Steve Decker, RMEF.
LOW PRICES. RELIABLE SERVICE.
Thatâ€™s how we ride.
The power of good is awlays on
SCENE Capturing the Best Beyond-the-Dirt Moments
World-renowned Charro and rope artist Tomas Garcilazo dazzled the NFR pre-show.
AR O U ND T H E T&M
Photos: Daniels, patriotic opening, Tomas Garcilazo – Tom Donoghue. Check – Sam Morris/Las Vegas News Bureau. Wills, Williams – Steve Spatafore.
Wynn Williams performs at Cowboy Corral
Mark Wills at Cowboy Corral
Charlie Daniels NFRREWIND
C OW B OY CH R I STMAS
Fans like Brantley can hang with the likes of steer wrestler Nick Guy at Cowboy Christmas.
Tyson Durfey and Shea Fisher
Cowboy Christmas entry
Outside the Barrel: Flint Rasmussen and Trevor Brazile
Photos: Steve Spatafore.
Tyler Pearson meets a young fan
It was all Wright as Ryder joined his dad, Cody, and uncles, Jesse and Spencer, as a saddle bronc world champ. Go-Round Buckle presentation at the South Point
Tuf Cooper proposes
Photos: South Point - John Plummer. Others - Tom Donoghue.
B U C KLE S & S UCH
Tyler Pearson with daughter, Steelie Raine
Tim Oâ€™Connell poses with likeness NFRREWIND
Team roper Junior Nogueira was all smiles during the cowboy-favorite visit to Grant a Gift Autism Foundation.
GRANT A G I F T
George Strait at T-Mobile Arena
Sgt. Timothy Grace surprised his father, Bo, at the South Point on December 5. Grace is a recent returnee from Afghanistan.
HO ED OW N
Six bands performed at Hoedown The kickoff to NFR is Downtown Hoedown
Photos: Grant a Gift - Tom Donoghue. Hoedown at Fremont Street Experience - Black Raven Films. Sgt. Grace â€“ Steve Spatafore.
Cowboys, kids at Grant a Gift
Las Vegas Events President Pat Christenson and Daryle Singletary enjoy the Wrangler NFR.
Photos: Reba, opening night - Tom Donoghue. The D - John Plummer. Others - Steve Spatafore.
Reba wowed the crowd with an inspirational national anthem on Night 9.
AROUND THE NFR Alexis Bloomer poses with Sage Kimzey at Cowboy Christmas to promote her new book
Wrangler NFR fans pose for photos outside the entrance to the Cowboy Corral
The D welcomes rodeo fans
On opening night, Wrangler NFR contestants observe a moment of silence in honor of the victims of 1 October.
Former PRCA Commissioner Karl Stressman, LVCVA CEO Rossi Ralenkotter, South Point Owner Michael Gaughan and Las Vegas Events President Pat Christenson enjoy the rodeo
Flint Rasmussen is joined by 2018 MRA Keri Sheffield (left) and Lisa Lageschaar, 2017 MRA
Daryle Singletary performs the national anthem at the Thomas & Mack Center on December 8.
A R O U ND T H E N F R
Terry Fator and Trevor Brazile pose in the tunnel prior to the Wrangler NFR on December 9
Rodeo legend Ty Murray attends the Wrangler NFR with his wife, Paige Duke
The CBS Sports Network pre-show with Suzanne Alexander and Joe Beaver was held on a set overlooking the Las Vegas Strip
Photos: Singletary, Fator - Tom Donoghue. Others - Steve Spatafore.
Randy Bloomer, right, is joined by son Jake on the dirt
LVE Staff at Cowboy Christmas
SCENE Lucas Hoge and Cliff Findlay share a laugh
Photos: Daniels - Tom Donoghue. Others - Steve Spatafore.
South Point General Manager Ryan Growney poses with wife Sierra Black prior to the start of the Wrangler NFR.
Benny Beutler, RFD-TVâ€™s Sean Cassidy and Michael Gaughan
Exceptional Rodeo is a special event for both the contestants and children
Charlie Daniels shares a moment with Sage Kimzey before the performance on December 10
Las Vegas Events Chairman Scott Sibella, Mark Wills and LVE President Pat Christenson NFRREWIND
Throughout the Wrangler NFR, competitors honored victims of the 1 October tragedy.
Photos: Top 2 - David Becker/Las Vegas News Bureau. Horse - SamMorris/Las Vegas News Bureau. Bottom 3 - Tom Donoghue.
George’s Strait to Vegas concert was sold out each night at T-Mobile Arena.
Photos: South Point, Silverton, Mirage, MGM – John Plummer. National Finals Tonight – Avid Visual Imagery Rodeo. Strait – T-Mobile Arena.
National Finals Tonight
Austin Allsup at Silverton
Aaron Watson at the South Point
AF TER PARTIES AND CO N CE R T S
MGM Grand God Buckle Zone Chris Janson at The Mirage NFRREWIND
TOP TEN MOMENTS
10 BEST NFR 2017 MOMENTS
As usual, the Wrangler NFR delivered a bevy of remarkable moments last year, topped by an emotional opening night tribute. By PATRICK EVERSON
Photos: Tom Photo: Donoghue. Tom Donoghue.
very year, the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo produces more great moments than one can truly count, and 2017 was no different. Narrowing all those moments down to the 10 best was no easy chore— but there was no doubt what deserved to be at the top of the list. On opening night at the Thomas & Mack Center, Wrangler NFR contestants rode in and, joined by more than 17,000 fans, paid a somber tribute to the victims of the October 1 mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival. It was the rodeo world’s first chance to offer its condolences, and it did so in a proper, tasteful way, with the names of the 58 who perished slowly scrolling on the overhead scoreboard. The tip of the Resistol went out to all those harmed that fateful night, and those who continue on in the wake of the tragedy.
For most of this century, the title of all-around world champion cowboy has belonged to Trevor Brazile, the 13-time winner of rodeo’s most prestigious gold buckle. But by the time the curtain dropped on the 2017 Wrangler NFR, Tuf Cooper did just enough to unseat his brother-inlaw and mentor. Competing in tiedown roping and steer roping, Cooper finished the year with $341,560, with Brazile second at $319,337.
In the eighth go-round, rising saddle bronc star Ryder Wright posted a 92-point ride aboard Show Me Again to nab the first-place check of $26,231. That was apparently the 19-year-old’s way of announcing he was in it to win it this year. Wright finished atop the leaderboard in the ninth go-round as well, on the way to claiming his first gold buckle in just
his second full year of competition in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. The son of two-time saddle bronc champion Cody Wright finished the season with $284,938.
With Nevada the host state for this annual Super Bowl of rodeo, it’s always nice when one of the Silver State’s own shows up in a big way. Such was the case for Dakota Eldridge, a steer wrestler from Elko, Nevada. Eldridge won the seventh go-round with a blazing time of 3.3 seconds, the best time posted over the entire 10 days of the Wrangler NFR.
Barrel racing’s third go-round featured the two fastest times ever recorded at the Thomas & Mack— and they were posted within about 60 seconds of each other. Kassie Mowry was the first racer out and clocked 13.36 seconds, edging Taylor Jacob’s arena record of 13.37 at the 2013 Wrangler NFR. But two riders later, first-time NFR contestant Hailey Kinsel knocked Mowry from the top spot with a crowd-wowing time of 13.11 seconds.
Speaking of fast times, Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira clocked an all-timer in the ninth goround of team roping. With Driggers heading and Nogueira heeling, the duo posted a time of 3.3 seconds, tying for the fastest ever. Driggers and Nogueira matched the mark previously set by Chad Masters and Jade Corkill at the 2009 NFR, and Brock Hansen and Ryan Motes, whose 3.3-second run came in a 2012 rodeo at Nacogdoches, Texas.
It’s all about cashing checks at the Wrangler NFR, and nobody cashed more in 2017 than tie-down roper Marcos Costa. Over the 10-day run, the Brazilian piled up $195,519 to not only earn the Top Gun Award as the contestant with the most NFR earnings, but also claim his first tiedown roping world championship with a season total of $317,421.
Bull riding world titles are becoming old hat for a still-young Sage Kimzey. The 23-year-old capped his fourth gold-buckle run in as many years with a first-place ride of 88 points aboard Girl Money. Kimzey finished 2017 with a whopping $434,479 in earnings.
Military Appreciation Night was particularly poignant at the 2017 Wrangler NFR. Rodeo and patriotism go hand-in-hand, and on Night seven, the evening opened with a moving tribute to the Code Talkers, the Native Americans who aided U.S. military forces in World War II.
cleaned up at the Wrangler NFR. He was the best rider over the 10 days, securing his second consecutive NFR average crown, as well as a second consecutive world championship gold buckle. O’Connell finished the season with $371,415; no other bareback rider even approached $300,000.
For the second straight year, bareq back rider Tim O’Connell completely
Bull rider Sage Kimzey never made such a public proclamation of future greatness, but he nonetheless managed to collect four Wrangler National Finals Rodeo gold buckles in his first four seasons on the professional rodeo circuit, putting him halfway to the record eight world championships won by the legendary Donny Gay. Here’s Kimzey in his own words: The first thing that comes to mind when I think about world title No. 4 is … it’s another one down. I’ve still got a long mountain ahead of me to where I want to be, but each year is another stepping-stone and each title is special. I grew up always wanting to be a world champion bull rider, and the older I got—especially going through my permit year and my rookie year—that was when the dream of surpassing Gay’s eight titles became a reality. Winning a world title in each of my first four years … has definitely been a little bit of a shell shock. It’s been pretty crazy ride, for sure. I don’t think anybody would have said, “Oh yeah, that’s going to happen.” I had an extraordinary opportunity, and I have a great God who is there with me every step of the way.
Bull riding legend Sage Kimzey claimed his fourth-straight world title—and even amazed himself. By BRIAN HURLBURT
few years ago, Miami Heat basketball players LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh boasted at an introductory press conference that they would help their team win, “Not one, not two, not three, not four …” championships. While the trio did go on to win two titles in four seasons together, they didn’t come close to fulfilling their promise.
The Thomas & Mack Center … holds a special place in every cowboy’s heart. Whenever you think of rodeo, you think about the Thomas & Mack’s yellow bucking shoots and the Las Vegas Strip. It’s a place I grew up going to every year, and always dreamed about competing in the NFR. It’s the Holy Grail of rodeo for everyone in the Western industry.
Photo: Tom Donoghue.
NOT ONE, NOT TWO, NOT THREE …
I realize how important every single bull I get on throughout the year is … so that keeps me focused. When I get on a bull, I always think back to what the 10- or 12-year-old me would be thinking about at that moment. It wouldn’t be right to myself or the fans or to the younger version of me to take any ride half-heartedly or lackluster.
here’s no denying the main draw in Las Vegas each December is the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, but several other rodeo spectacles are growing in popularity and helping make the city that glitters the capital of the Western lifestyle, at least for 10 days. “The combination of the pre-Christmas shopping, vacation venues, the Wrangler NFR, the ability to rope for millions of dollars each day, and now the addition of the other events trying to duplicate the World Series of Team Roping has created the unheard-of concept that well over $22 million will be distributed within the cowboy world during that one week,” says Dennis Gentry, founder of the World Series of Team Roping. “This is an unprecedented time within the Western lifestyle.”
UNPRECEDENTED WESTERN WORLD
The Wrangler NFR may be the world’s biggest and baddest rodeo, but it’s not the only game in town during Rodeo Week.
Here’s a glimpse of the rodeo action that takes place outside the confines of the Thomas & Mack Center. All-In Barrel Race, The Orleans The All-In Barrel Race was developed as a handicapped barrel race themed after Lady Luck herself, and is open to all levels of barrel racers. A one-fee concept allows participants to secure a hotel room, horse stall, truck and trailer parking, jacket, open arena time, and entry into the competition. Even better: The event offers 100 percent payback of entry fees. “There’s nothing better than seeing the excitement on the faces of those who win $10,000 in each of the categories, because most of the ladies in the competition
aren’t professional-level, so this is a thrill of a lifetime for them,” says event producer Chris Woodruff. “It’s unheard of for some of these ladies to win that kind of money in some of the slower divisions, so it’s exciting for them and fulfilling for us.”
how good our grounds crew was. I bring in the very best grounds crew from Texas, and it showed.” LVBarrelRace.com Bullfighters Only, Tropicana
The quality of the event allows competitors to feel like they are in a top-level rodeo, right down to the track on which they compete.
Bullfighters Only is the world’s premiere freestyle bullfighting competition series, and features an international roster of elite pros competing against the meanest fighting bulls for the largest purse in bullfighting history.
“The dirt—or as we call it, the ground—remained very good throughout the competition,” Woodruff says. “The ground is so important, and after we had 1,100 runs over a five-day period, we had the fastest time recorded on the final day. That shows how good the ground was and
“The crowds this year and the sheer amount of people who came to the Tropicana for our event was amazing,” says founder and CEO Aaron Ferguson. “The atmosphere inside the tent was electric for every performance, and I know that drives the guys to perform better.
Photo: Courtesy - WSOTR. Chute-Out - Avid Visual Imagery Rodeo.
By BRIAN HURLBURT
The World Series of Team Roping (left) and the Boyd Gaming Chute-Out provide fans and competitors thrills and chills. Boyd Gaming Chute-Out presented by Cinch, The Orleans
“Weston Rutkowski won his second straight BFO World Championship and hoisted that big check for $75,000. We’re super passionate about the sport, so for the athletes to have an opportunity to win that much money, it’s special.” Ferguson adds that his event stands out for its willingness to let the competitors show off their personalities. “Bullfighters Only is the only Western action sport and is judged on style and creativity like most action sports, and we encourage our guys to be individuals,” he says. BullFightersOnly.com Priefert World Series of Team Roping, South Point The World Series of Team Roping, which debuted in 2006 as a recreational diversion for cowboys during the NFR, has exploded into the world’s richest team roping event—and second-richest equine competition, trailing only the Breeders’ Cup—with a purse of $12 million. “We are surprised at the continued growth,” Gentry says. “We pre-
dicted that based on constraints of parking and horses that we could not grow any larger. However, within those limitations it has still grown with contestants entering more divisions. We grew by more than $1 million from 2016 to 2017. “When we started the event, we deliberately had a high entry fee to identify real gamblers within our group. The high entry fees led to large payouts, and the larger the payouts, the more people who wanted to participate. At this point, our finale has become a bucket-list experience.” Gentry says that the rapid and substantial growth has led his host venue to grow along with it. “The South Point continually has been adding features to the event that have made it more attractive for our customers,” he says. “Owner Michael Gaughan built two new indoor arenas a few years ago and purchased additional parking along the freeway. He also built a moving sidewalk from the casino to the arena, has bought more land for the event and has just purchased a state-of-the-art video board for the arena to enhance the experience.” WSTRoping.com
The Boyd Gaming Chute-Out is a new, interactive rodeo that is unique, affordable and just plain fun, as it features some of the top names in rodeo. “This is a high-quality rodeo,” says Jackie Ferrando, Boyd Gaming’s director of event marketing. “From the production staff and livestock to the contestants, we have some of the best in the industry. One of our announcers, Bob Tallman, won the 2017 PRCA Announcer of Year. Josh ‘Hambone’ Hilton provides our sound and won 2017 Musical Director of the Year. And our rodeo clown, Justin Rumford, won the 2017 Barrel Man of the Year award as well. Having all of that talent on our team helps make the Chute-Out an unforgettable rodeo experience.” Of course, it all starts with the equally talented—and fan-friendly—contestants. “We try to make the Boyd Gaming Chute-Out an experience, not just a rodeo,” Ferrando says. “We offer options for fans to engage with the contestants, from our exclusive mobile app to a meet-and-greet after the rodeo. Our contestants are treated like the stars we know they are, and they enjoy staying at The Orleans.” BoydGamingEvents. com/Chute-Out-Rodeo
Ride along with bareback cowboy Bill Tutor as he takes us step by step through 10 go-rounds, starting with an inspirational gesture of giving back number 58. By PATRICK EVERSON
Photo: Greg Westfall.
TEN DAYS WITH BILL TUTOR
INSIDE NFR ACCESS WITH MR. 59
We’ve all heard the saying, “This isn’t my first rodeo.” And since Bill Tutor qualified for the 2017 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, he clearly had been on the business end of a bareback bronc many, many times before arriving in Las Vegas. While it wasn’t Tutor’s first rodeo, it was his first Wrangler NFR. What follows is a night-by-night synopsis of what the 26-year-old cowboy from Huntsville, Texas, experienced during his inaugural 10 go-rounds. OPENING NIGHT Tutor had a little more going on than the rest of the 120-contestant field as the curtain lifted at the Thomas & Mack Center. That’s because he was to have worn the back number of 58—signifying that he was the 58th-highest earner among Wrangler NFR qualifiers. However, as part of a tribute to the 58 lives lost on October 1 at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival, the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, in partnership with Wrangler NFR officials, wanted to bypass No. 58. The plan: Following No. 57, cowboys would shift one number, all the way to No. 121. Tutor was asked if he was amenable to moving from No. 58 to No. 59, and he didn’t hesitate even a moment to say yes. “Oh, absolutely. Anybody would’ve done it. I just so happened to be the guy who fell at 58,” Tutor said. “I probably speak for everybody when I say my heart goes out to all the people involved in [the October 1 shooting]. … Vegas is our home, too. It’s where the NFR is held, our biggest event of the year. “Nothing can change what happened, but we can show our respect and show some support.”
TEN DAYS WITH BILL TUTOR
Tutor in front of the chutes with fiance, Ashlyn Voigt.
Having properly done that, it was time for Tutor to ride, as the bareback bronc event is the first one out of the chute after the nightly Grand Entry. He scored 80 points, more than respectable for his first effort, but it wasn’t enough to crack the top six and cash a check—not that such a result dampened Tutor’s spirits. “It was great; I’m talking about the best feeling in the world,” said Tutor, who entered the NFR 11th in the world saddle bronc standings with season earnings of $96,039. “This is all I’ve been dreaming about my whole life. I kept telling myself it’s just another rodeo, even though it’s not. … The lights, all the spectators, the electricity running through the building. It was the coolest thing I’ve ever done!” NIGHT TWO Tutor’s second effort brought a few less butterflies, but unfortunately just a 78-point ride, 14th among the 15 bareback contestants. “I kind of knew what to expect [the second night]. That sure helped
with the jitters,” Tutor said. “Truthfully, I didn’t feel like I was more relaxed. I feel like I made a few mistakes tonight that I’d corrected all year.” With nightly checks ranging from $26,231 for first place to $4,231 for sixth, the Wrangler NFR is often what makes the difference between a profitable year and a break-evenor-worse season. Each NFR qualifier gets a $10,000 bonus at the outset, but two nights in, Tutor was still looking for his first actual winnings. NIGHT THREE The third time was, unfortunately, not the charm for Tutor, who netted just 71 points aboard Showstopper. It was disappointing, because all 15 riders were in a Saturday night showdown with the so-called Eliminator Pen—tough horses to ride, but ones that generally reward with good scores. “She kind of led me around,” Tutor said of his horse. “I sure didn’t visualize it that way all day. I had very high expectations. It didn’t go the
way I’d planned, but we’ve still got seven more rounds.” NIGHT FOUR After failing to break the bank in his first three nights in Vegas, Tutor finally busted through and claimed a check with a standout ride in the fourth go-round. Sitting atop Vitalix William Wallace, he posted a solid 85-point ride and grabbed a fourthplace check of $11,000. As much as opening night was a dream come true, this is what Tutor really had been waiting for his whole life. “Oh, it’s exciting. I definitely feel better than I felt the last three rounds,” Tutor said, noting he made some changes prior to this ride. “A complete new rigging, straight off the shelf. I hadn’t used it yet. There wasn’t anything wrong with my old rigging. I just wanted to change something up.” NIGHT FIVE Whether it was the new rigging or simply the luck of the draw of horses, Tutor found more success at the midway point of the 10-day event.
In the fifth go-round, Tutor hopped aboard Scarlett’s Web and posted his highest score of the week at 88 points, which amounted to a threeway tie for second and a healthy $15,795 check.
TEN DAYS WITH BILL TUTOR
“The coolest part was it was our TV pen of horses—the best horses in the world, horses that have won a lot of money for cowboys,” Tutor said. “I said when I saw them lined up that there was not one of them I wouldn’t like to have. It was exciting. You don’t want to be the guy who messes up an opportunity to do something great.” NIGHT SIX In the world of professional rodeo, high highs are often followed by low lows, and that was the case for Tutor on this night. He mustered just a 70-point ride on Illegal Smile, which would ultimately be the lowest score of his inaugural NFR. “She was just kind of a handful, but I ended up getting a score,” Tutor said. That’s not just a cowboy finding a silver lining amid a dark cloud. Rather, it’s a very valid point: Even with a couple of disappointing scores, Tutor was 6-for-6 to begin his NFR career, having not yet been bucked off a single horse. That would be key at week’s end, when the NFR average money is divided up. NIGHT SEVEN The seventh go-round brought a return to check-cashing form for Tutor, who scored 83.5 points aboard Ankle Biter to earn a three-way tie for fourth and $7,333. “Any day money is good day money. So, heck yeah, that’s a good day,” said Tutor, who with that ride pushed his total NFR earnings beyond $44,000. “I’m not to my goal yet. I don’t want to say what the goal is, but it’s still very attainable.”
NIGHT EIGHT Tutor definitely moved closer to his goal in this go-round after riding Full Baggage to 84.5 points and a sixth-place check of $4,231. It was the second time through in the Eliminator Pen, and this time, Tutor made it pay. “I was hoping for something magical to happen, but that’s still a good score,” he said. “I got another ride under my belt, and now I’m 8-for-8—yes, sir! I haven’t looked at the average, I haven’t looked at the world standings. All I’m thinking about is the horse I’m gonna ride that night.”
Tutor and Jake Brown stroll after a performance, ready to do it again NIGHT NINE the next night. There would be one last dip for the Texas cowboy, who managed just 75 points on Big Star, well off the 85 that would ride pushed him to eighth in the have been necessary to pick up a average, good for another $6,346. It also allowed him to depart Las paycheck. And while Tutor was Vegas without ever hitting the disappointed with the result, he Thomas & Mack dirt. remained undaunted. “My goal is still out there,” Tutor said. “I’m gonna have to come a ridin’ on Saturday night, but it’s attainable.” NIGHT TEN And come a ridin’ Tutor did, racking up 87.5 points on Gun Fire. It was the second-best score of the night, but because two riders tied for first at 88 points, Tutor had to settle for a sizable third-place check of $15,654. Further, that
“I had two goals for this NFR. To win $50,000 was one of my goals,” said Tutor, who cleared that benchmark thanks to his lastday haul. In all, he pocketed more than $70,000 during his 10 days in Vegas, pushing his season total to $166,398—good for 11th in the final world standings. “The second goal was I wanted a go-round buckle. I didn’t get that, but I came close two nights. That just makes me want to work harder and qualify again next year.”
Boyd Polhamus (left) and Shawn Davis
“Retaining the staff is my main goal,” Polhamus says. “Shawn did such a wonderful job with this rodeo and is such a great leader. He has trained a staff that is so good that they make what they do look so easy, but they are some of the highest-graded professionals in our industry.” Polhamus and Davis have already spent countless hours together preparing for the transition, and the understudy confirms that words of wisdom have come fast and furious from the mentor.
COACHING THEM UP
“He has also preached that the National Finals Rodeo was created to give whichever contestant was in the arena at that time their one minute or 90 seconds of fame. From the time that one contestant enters the arena until the time they exit, all attention should be focused on them.”
By BRIAN HURLBURT
While Polhamus will keep in place much of what Davis has built, he also wants to develop new ideas to keep the event evolving with the times.
Wrangler NFR general manager-in-waiting Boyd Polhamus knows he has huge boots to fill, but is ready to give it a go.
oyd Polhamus has been behind the microphone at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo for the past 27 years as an arena announcer, and arguably nobody has ever used their words to capture the scene more smoothly and effectively.
is so doggone good already that there is a chance that I could mess it up, and I don’t want to mess it up,” Polhamus says. “I know what a huge undertaking this is. I also know that my experience and my tenure is no guarantee of success.
Now, Polhamus is about to trade in his mic to fill the boots of Wrangler NFR general manager Shawn Davis, who is stepping down after he, without a doubt, did his job more smoothly and effectively than anyone in history. Davis has served as general manager since 1986 and has been involved in the rodeo for 55 years overall.
“I view myself as a coach taking over a really good team with very good players who have been winning Super Bowl titles every year. It’s my job to coach them up and make sure the success continues.”
“I don’t want to sound less than confident, because I am confident that I will come in and do a good job. But at the same time, this rodeo
Boyd, who ended his announcing run in 2017, will serve as Davis’ official understudy this year before taking over full control in 2019. Polhamus says Davis will remain part of the Wrangler NFR team as a consultant in 2019, and he hopes to convince the current staff to stick around as well.
“My ultimate goal can be summed up in one word: engagement,” Polhamus says. “That engagement is going to be from cowboy to fan, from fan to cowboy, from cowboy to sport, from fan to sport. An example is possibly miking up a contestant and then the next night, before that contestant rides, fans in the arena get to hear what the contestant typically says to colleagues, the horse, to the flank man [before a ride]. It’s like NFL Films miking up Tom Brady or another player. I would also like to marry social media into the production as long as it doesn’t affect how sacred the competition is. At the end of the day, somebody is in pursuit of a world championship, but if I can bring in new ideas without affecting their ability to win that world title, I want to engage in some of that.”
“His best advice is, ‘The rules must be followed, and everyone must follow the rules,’” Polhamus says. “It doesn’t matter if it is Trevor Brazile or the 15th-ranked bareback rider, the rules are the same for everyone. The first time you don’t enforce a rule, you lose all credibility.
NEXT BEST THING
Dozens of Las Vegas resorts put fans in the thick of the raucous action by hosting Wrangler NFR viewing parties.
You’re probably thinking we’re describing the scene inside the Thomas & Mack Center, where 17,000 fans take in the nightly excitement of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
By BRIAN HURLBURT
Well, you thought wrong.
age Kimzey has just won his fourth straight world bull riding title— the first cowboy to do so in his first four years on the professional rodeo circuit—and the crowd watching goes absolutely bonkers! It’s a reaction that’s akin to a Super Bowl-winning touchdown, New Year’s Eve celebration and beauty pageant crowning all wrapped up into one moment.
The spontaneous celebration of Kimzey’s record-setting achievement was actually from one of the many Wrangler NFR viewing parties that are held at various Las Vegas hotels and resorts during the
Photos: John Plummer.
The Silverton 10-day event. The free—yes, free— viewing parties have begun to rival attending the actual competition at the Thomas & Mack, and fans love everything about the off-site experience, from the food and drink deals to the entertainment offerings to the convenience of not having to leave the hotel. What makes a Wrangler NFR viewing party extra special is guests aren’t watching the live CBS Sports Network television feed, like they would at a bar watching the NBA
Finals, World Series or Super Bowl. Instead, the official arena feed is piped into the viewing parties, which brings fans closer to the action and allows them to enjoy the velvety tones of legendary arena announcers Wayne Brooks, Randy Corley and Boyd Polhamus. “‘Party’ is the operative word here,” says longtime Wrangler NFR reporter Patrick Everson, who has seen a thing or two while chroni-
cling the viewing parties over the last decade. “A lot of these places are packed, and it’s raucous. Considering you’re not at the arena, the atmosphere is tremendous. Because of the arena feed, fans feel like they have a seat right by the chutes. And hearing the same announcers that fans throughout the arena hear really makes it feel like you’re actually there.” Fans can’t get enough of the viewNFRREWIND
ing-party action and have come to appreciate the convenience and amenities that are provided each night. “It’s the comfort level,” says Mark Owens of Alabama, who attended several viewing parties in 2017 including one at the South Point, which is also home to the nightly NFR gold buckle presentations. “It’s like we’re at the rodeo. There’s no difference, except it’s on a huge screen. We get up and scream, just like we’re there at the arena.” According to executives with Las Vegas Events—which, along with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, is the official Wrangler NFR event organizer—21 Las Vegas properties hosted official viewing parties in 2017: Bally’s Las Vegas, Caesars Palace, Cosmopolitan,
“The Wrangler NFR is loaded with unique experiences and there are no ‘Viewing Parties’ in sports quite like NFR Viewing Parties,” says Las Vegas Events President Pat Christenson. The D, Flamingo Las Vegas, Gold Coast, Golden Nugget, Hard Rock, Harrah’s Las Vegas, Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand, The Mirage, The Orle-
ans, Planet Hollywood, The Plaza, Sam’s Town, Silverton, South Point, Treasure Island, Tropicana and Westgate Las Vegas. An additional 16 locations showed satellite feeds of the rodeo, including Binion’s, CasaBlanca in Mesquite, Downtown Grand, Encore, Four Queens, Fremont, New YorkNew York, Palace Station, Paris Las Vegas, Red Rock, Rio, Santa Fe, SLS, Suncoast, Virgin River in Mesquite and Wynn Las Vegas. The evolution of the viewing party is nothing short of a phenomenon. “The Wrangler NFR is loaded with unique experiences, and there are no ‘viewing parties’ in sports quite like NFR viewing parties,” says Las Vegas Events president Pat Chris-
tenson. “The feed is not taken from the CBS Sports telecast. It’s live from the arena and feature all of the pageantry that comes from being there. In addition, each hotel wraps a custom experience around their viewing party, including appearances from contestants, giveaways and post-rodeo live entertainment.” Of course, fans aren’t the only beneficiaries of these viewing parties. Hoteliers embrace them because they entice rodeo fans to come early and stay late, enjoying music, food, drink and other Western lifestyle festivities. “Las Vegas transforms for 10 days every December,” says Silverton communications director Kimiko Peterson. “On and off the dirt you find real cowboys and cowgirls, authentic, genuine and spirited. That overall genuine feeling that you get is the first thing that comes to mind about the NFR in Las Vegas.” The Silverton is unique because, unlike a lot of establishments, its viewing parties are for rodeo fans of all ages. “We offer a very comfortable resort environment for NFR fans,” Peterson says. “We are not pretentious and don’t take ourselves too seriously. Our resort welcomes families during the NFR, because we know that this is very much a family-oriented experience. In addition, we offer free concerts and unmatched food and drink specials. “In 2018, we are excited to be partnering with Cowboys & Indians Magazine on all of our events surrounding the NFR. The spirit and attitude of the NFR audience aligns perfectly with our brand— casual, welcoming, honest and authentic.” Don Voss, vice president of hotel sales and marketing for Treasure Island, says his resort offers a unique vibe for viewing parties, which includes incorporating Gilley’s Saloon.
“Fans enjoy the viewing parties for the real-time rodeo competition, the laid-back atmosphere and great service, as well as being ‘first in line’ for the NFR after-parties,” Voss says. “TI and Gilley’s Saloon feature comfortable seating, giant HDTVs, surround-sound audio and great drink specials, as well as live country music immediately following the NFR each night. In 2018, our viewing parties will offer even more seating and viewing areas, delicious food specials, new live bands and prize giveaways.” Somewhat new to the Wrangler NFR viewing-party scene is the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas, located in the heart of the Las Vegas Strip. For only the second time, the Cosmopolitan catered specifically to rodeo fans in 2017, and the property plans to continue to do so now that Nevada cattle rancher Bill McBeath controls the reins as the resort’s president. “Las Vegas is electric and a very interesting city, because it’s always filled to max capacity, but each week the town’s dynamics change due to who is visiting the city,” McBeath says. “For those 10 days of the NFR, the city is immersed in the cowboy lifestyle. The rodeo just happens to be the center of that Western universe. Vegas has this incredible allure, and that is why so many world championship events are held here.” Downtown Las Vegas, home of the Fremont Street Experience, also hosts viewing parties, most notably at The D Las Vegas and in the adjacent Downtown Las Vegas Events Center, where fans enjoy the rodeo action and live entertainment under a 20,000-squarefoot heated tent. Indeed, whether on the Strip or off, Wrangler NFR viewing parties guarantee a good time and a great view of the on-the-dirt action— not to mention a head start on the epic NFR-at-Night after-parties. Which just might be the best benefit of all.
2017 Wrangler NFR Viewing Parties Bally’s Las Vegas Caesars Palace Cosmopolitan The D Flamingo Las Vegas Gold Coast Golden Nugget Hard Rock Harrah’s Las Vegas Mandalay Bay MGM Grand Mirage The Orleans Planet Hollywood The Plaza Sam’s Town Silverton South Point Treasure Island Tropicana Westgate Las Vegas SATELLITE FEEDS Binion’s CasaBlanca in Mesquite Downtown Grand Encore Four Queens Fremont New York-New York Palace Station Paris Las Vegas Red Rock Rio Sante Fe SLS Suncoast Virgin River in Mesquite Wynn Las Vegas Visit NFRExperience.com soon for 2018 Information.
NOTHIN’ BUT A GOOD TIME
exhibitors. One example is the partnership Cowboy Christmas has forged with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, which for the past three years has staged its annual Hunter & Outdoor Expo on the second floor of the South Hall, complete with interactive exhibits that allow visitors to enjoy a more hands-on experience.
By MATT JACOB
Also in recent years, Cowboy Christmas has boosted its entertainment offerings with popular performers Flint Rasmussen and Daryle Singletary commanding the Rodeo Live Stage. A former rodeo clown, Rasmussen hosts the daily “Outside the Barrel” show that often features current and past rodeo stars, while Singletary’s “Keepin’ It Country” showcases the talented singer along with fellow country artists who join him for musical performances.
From the goods for sale to the entertainment offerings to the Junior NFR, Cowboy Christmas continues to deliver an exceptional experience.
t started nearly four decades ago as little more than a place to go to browse Western wares and kill some time before the night’s main attraction kicked off down the street. These days, though, Cowboy Christmas is a fully immersive and interactive spectacle that lures thousands of rodeo fans to the Las Vegas Convention Center for 10 days each December. And while it might be a stretch to suggest that the official gift show of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo has become as popular a destination as the Super Bowl of Rodeo itself, it’s most certainly not a stretch to say that the majority of fans who flock to Las Vegas during Rodeo Week put Cowboy Christmas near the top of their to-do list.
“It’s always exciting to hear that people visit Las Vegas during the NFR specifically to go shopping at Cowboy Christmas, and that they’ve been doing this for multiple years or they started last year and plan to make it a tradition,” says Anne Aznarez, who organizes the annual event as the director of show operations and exhibits for Las Vegas Events. “This has become a major part of their annual vacation.” A big reason why? The variety that can be found throughout the convention center’s expansive two-story South Hall. And that variety extends far beyond the vast array of Western-related goods and services that are peddled by more than 300
In 2017, Rasmussen and Singletary welcomed a new friend to the Rodeo Live Stage. As host of the youth-centric “Rodeo Recess,” Andy Seiler turned the spotlight on kids and their families for whom rodeo has become their sport of choice, in much the same way some young
Photos: Steve Spatafore.
athletes gravitate toward Little League baseball or club soccer. Which brings us to another recent—and significant— addition to Cowboy Christmas roster: the Junior NFR. Held in the upstairs Wrangler Rodeo Arena, the Junior NFR launched in 2016 with six events staged over six days and featuring 320 competitors ranging in age from 10 to 19. The inaugural event proved so popular that for its second go-round in 2017, the Junior NFR added a presenting sponsor (YETI), a veteran announcer (Seiler), two new events (saddle bronc and steer wrestling) and nearly 300 more contestants, while also expanding from six to 10 days. On each of those days, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., the 1,100-seat Wrangler Rodeo Arena was filled to capacity with family, friends and interested spectators cheering on rodeo’s stars of tomorrow. Bo Gardner, vice president of corporate marketing for Las Vegas Events, says more than 5,000 junior rodeo contestants from 34 states and three countries competed in various competitions in hopes of qualifying for the 2017 Junior NFR, with 594 earning a golden ticket. “So it’s definitely making the impact that we want to make for the sport of rodeo and its future,” he says. While Gardner has little doubt that there’s massive growth potential for the Junior NFR, he and his team are more interested in a slow-andsteady approach. “There are opportunities and people wanting to get more involved, but we just feel like if we go too big, too fast that we’re going to get ahead of ourselves,” he says. “We want to take manageable steps in growing this event.” Those steps include reaching out to the 600-plus rodeo committees across the land and convincing them to consider a Junior NFR
qualifier when professional rodeos ride into town. “Their arena is already there, the judges are already there, the timekeepers—everything is all set to have a Junior NFR qualifying event,” Gardner says. “I do believe fans would be willing to buy a ticket to watch friends or family members qualify for the Junior NFR in Las Vegas.” Ultimately, of course, Gardner’s goal for the Junior NFR is to continue to provide the best young rodeo athletes in the world a platform to strut their stuff in a sold-out venue—just like their heroes down the road at the Thomas & Mack Center. “Everything we do now in the Wrangler Rodeo Arena is related to rodeo,” Gardner says. “It’s the direction we wanted to head five years ago but were unable to. We now feel good about what we have to offer in that arena.” Likewise, Aznarez feels good about what she and her vendors have to offer throughout the rest of the South Hall, which is everything from stylish jeans, boots and cowboy hats to high-end jewelry, custom furniture, horse trailers and artwork—all of it celebrating the Western lifestyle. It’s why your holiday decorations had barely been boxed up and stored in the garage
before Las Vegas Events was busy at work making tweaks to the 2018 exhibit hall layout, whether in an effort to improve the flow of traffic or the organizational elements. “We’re always trying to get our shoppers to come and stay longer or [return] for additional days,” Aznarez says. “If we can provide additional programming or added value, or just adding something new, fresh and different that sets us apart, that’s ultimately our goal.” Count at least one of exhibitor as quite appreciative of Las Vegas Events’s efforts. “Anne and her team who run our trade show, they really work hard and do a good job to make the whole experience worthwhile,” says Greg Dutton, owner of the New Mexico-based Dutton Bits, which has exhibited at Cowboy Christmas since the NFR moved from Oklahoma City to Las Vegas in 1985. “They’ve done such a good job of making that a cowboy town during the first part of December, and they deserve a big thank you for how hard they work. It’s amazing the logistics of it all and how it all comes together—but that’s a town that’s good at doing that kind of thing.” NFRREWIND
SHINING YOUNG STARS
Emerging cowgirls and cowboys strutted their stuff at the Junior NFR, proving the sport’s future is bright.
Organized by Las Vegas Events and overseen by some of the sport’s legendary figures—including Roy
Cooper, Kelly Kaminski, and Cirildo and Lillie Leal—the Junior National Finals Rodeo presented by YETI was once again a highlight of the annual spectacle that is Cowboy Christmas. Staged at the Wrangler Rodeo Arena in the Las Vegas Convention Center from December 7-16, this year’s Junior NFR showcased nearly 600 of the nation’s
most talented young cowboys and cowgirls competing in eight events: bareback riding, steer wrestling, team roping, girls and boys breakaway roping, tie-down roping, saddle bronc riding, barrel racing and bull riding. While their elders made history nightly at the Thomas & Mack
Photos: Tom Donoghue.
odeo fans looking to catch a glimpse at what the sport will look like in the coming years were able to do just that during 2017 Rodeo Week in Las Vegas.
By REID THOMPSON
Center, the Junior NFR competitors authored their own storylines throughout their 10-day competition. Take, for instance, Bradlee Miller. The 14-year-old from Huntsville, Texas, not only successfully defended his title in the Young Guns bull riding event, but also doubled down with the bareback riding title. Miller posted bareback scores of 79, 78.8 and 86.8, and 72.5, 72 and 70.5 in bull riding to
The next generation of rodeo is on display at the Junior National Finals Rodeo presented by YETI.
pull off the impressive double.
stronger every year.”
“We trained all year long for it—I got on practice bulls and practice horses weekly,” says Miller, whose rewarding trip to Las Vegas also included a George Strait concert. “So when I got there, I tried to act like I was still home in the practice pen. It helps to calm your nerves to know you’ve done it a million times, and all you have to do is do it a million and one.”
Bridger Anderson, a 19-year-old from Carrington, North Dakota, also had a successful trip to Las Vegas. Riding a battle-tested horse at the Wrangler Rodeo Arena, Anderson claimed the steer wrestling crown with a 13.20-second three-head average time after impressive runs of 4.3, 4.9 and 4.0. He emerged victorious over Marc Joiner by a scant twotenths of a second in a very tough group of bulldoggers.
To say rodeo is in Miller’s blood is an understatement. His parents—Bubba and Tammy—both competed in rodeo and helped cultivate his interest in the sport. Bradlee, who prefers bull riding to bareback riding even though the latter comes more naturally, says he has thoroughly enjoyed his two Junior NFR experiences. “It’s a great deal, and it’s raising the future athletes in our sport,” Miller said. “I think it’ll help make the future of rodeo stronger and
Anderson competes on the Northwest Oklahoma State rodeo team of seven-time Wrangler NFR bulldogger Stockton Graves, as well the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s Prairie Circuit. He counts two-time NFR qualifier J.D. Struxness as a mentor, and hopes to someday pay it forward for future Junior NFR competitors. “I bet it’s going to keep growing and getting bigger and bigger every year,” Anderson says of the Junior NFR. This year’s champion in boys tiedown roping was Dawson Appleton of Copan, Oklahoma, who averaged 8.96 seconds for his three runs to win his event with a total time of 26.88. The victory proved to be a confidence boost for the 17-year-old Copan High School student. “It was the best of the best, and was a tough roping,” says Appleton, who rode his 20-year-old horse Jack in Las Vegas. “I just tried making the best run for each calf I had. It proved that I can compete with anyone my age, and a lot of times my confidence is what hurts me the most. This helped me a bunch, and I would love to come back.” Now that Miller, Anderson and Appleton have tasted victory inside a Las Vegas arena, their next goal is to duplicate the feat one day at the Thomas & Mack Center. “That’s the ultimate dream of every kid who’s ever rodeoed,” Appleton says. That includes the next generation of tots currently working on their ridin’ and ropin’ skills, hoping to someday receive their own invite to compete in the Junior NFR. NFRREWIND
THE WRANGLER NFR VALUE PROPOSITION
You don’t always have to dig deep to enjoy the Wrangler NFR extravaganza. By BRIAN HURLBURT Of course, we all know visiting Las Vegas for the Wrangler NFR requires a decent financial commitment, but there are plenty of ways to pad the pocket book once you land in the desert. Here are a few of the best ways to do just that during Rodeo Week:
Vegas Convention Center. Browse hundreds of exhibitor booths, take in the Junior NFR in the upstairs Wrangler Rodeo Arena, snag some autographs or just enjoy the people watching. But if you do spot something that tickles your fancy, go ahead and break out that Andrew Jackson or Ben Franklin, and take home the perfect Wrangler NFR souvenir—whether a gift for a loved one or yourself!
DOWNTOWN HOEDOWN The official kickoff of the 10-day Wrangler NFR is the annual Downtown Hoedown that takes place in downtown Las Vegas the night before the first go-round. The Fremont Street Experience—an amazing free value in its own right—is the place to gather to enjoy free country music and other cool happenings surrounding the NFR. You don’t have to spend a nickel to take in the atmosphere, but there is plenty of fairly-priced, finger-lickin’good food and thirst-quenching libations to make the evening a little more memorable. COWBOY CHRISTMAS You don’t have to reach into your wallet or purse for a single dollar to enjoy the annual Cowboy Christmas and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Hunter & Outdoor Expo at the Las
DAILY SHEETS If you’re lucky enough to be in possession of a ticket that gets you past the Thomas & Mack Center turnstiles for the NFR, be sure to pick up the free daily sheets that feature the nightly rundown of competitors, plus the updated NFR winnings and world standings.
VIEWING PARTIES And if you don’t have a golden ticket? No worries, you can still catch all the high-flying rodeo happenings on big screens set up at various resorts along the Las Vegas
Strip. These viewing parties are free and open to the public, and in addition to the televised action, food and drink is available for a reasonable price.
POST-EVENT MUSIC Dance the night away at the Cowboy Corral in the Thomas & Mack Center or outside at the PRCA ProRodeo Zone, where up-and-coming country bands perform live music. The nightly concerts are free, as is entrance into the PRCA ProRodeo Zone. FREE SHUTTLES Get to and from the Wrangler NFR resort partners to the Wrangler NFR at Thomas & Mack for free each night in luxury bus shuttles. Also, free shuttles are available from Cowboy Christmas. OTHER EVENTS Check out the World Series of Team Roping at South Point and All-In barrel racing at The Orleans for free during the week.
Photo: Downtown - Black Raven Films. Sheets - Steve Spatafore. All-In - Group W Productions.
We all love getting value—or even something for free. No matter if it’s a major purchase like a home or car, or just taking advantage of a local retailer’s latest sale, it always feels good to save a little cash.
From one year to the next, the Wrangler NFR just gets bigger and better.
only did the son of two-time saddle bronc champ Cody Wright (and nephew of past champions Jesse and Spencer Wright) become the youngest saddle bronc winner in history, but he also pocketed the biggest saddle bronc paycheck ($284,938) of all time.
The 2017 Wrangler NFR featured one epic moment after another. Expect more of the same in 2018. By REID THOMPSON
t’s the primary goal of any professional sports organization: deliver a compelling championship event that’s chock-full of intense drama, multiple twists and turns and, ultimately, a spectacular finish that fans will long remember. In 2017, the Wrangler NFR checked each of these boxes—in a major way. Indeed, last year’s 10-day, $10 million Wrangler NFR kept 17,000 fans on the edge of their seats night after night—much to the delight of Shawn Davis, the Wrangler NFR’s general manager. “Every year I’ve been here except one, I’ve said it’s the best Finals we’ve ever had, and I think this is the best Finals we’ve ever had,” Davis said at the conclusion of the event. “In addition to all of the lead changes and the excitement from new champions, there was great action and really
great stories. I thought it was a real credit to the sport.” There were many moments that defined last year’s NFR at the Thomas & Mack Center and below are a few and then for some more details about the on-the-dirt action, check out the story about the official top 10 NFR moments on page 18: — Sage Kimzey and Tim O’Connell successfully defended their gold buckles. Kimzey won his fourth consecutive bull riding world championship, adding to his growing legacy by also claiming the Wrangler NFR average title. Meanwhile, O’Connell earned his second straight bareback riding crown and Wrangler NFR average saddle. — Yet another member of the Wright family—19-year-old Ryder—emerged victorious in saddle bronc riding. Not
— Finally, despite falling short against Costa, Cooper managed to outduel his brother-in-law, mentor and 13-time all-around champion Trevor Brazile for the 2017 allaround crown. Don’t be surprised if the 2018 Wrangler NFR picks up where last year’s left off. After all, Kimzey and O’Connell are already well on their way to earning another trip to Las Vegas, sitting atop the standings in their events through early January. Can the duo keep their rough-stock trains rolling— especially O’Connell, who will see the return of four-time world champion Kaycee Feild to the bareback riding ranks? Other questions to ponder: Can Ryder Wright become the first repeat saddle bronc champion since Billy Etbauer in 2000? And will the all-around title become another battle between Cooper and Brazile, or will Costa, 2016 all-around champ Junior Nogueira or others throw their ropes into the fray? Time will tell, but one thing seems a sure bet: As usual, it’s going to be a great deal of fun to watch and as electrifying an event as there is in sport.
Photo: Steve Spatafore.
RIDING A WAVE OF MOMENTUM
— Marcos Costa edged Tuf Cooper in tie-down roping to become the first Brazilian-born world champion in Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association history.
WORLD CHAMPION BULL RIDER
hunter & outdoor christmas expo
! u o y k Than Special thanks to all of the attendees, exhibitors and sponsors who helped make the 2017 Hunter & Outdoor Christmas Expo a success!
2018 RMEF Hunter & Outdoor Christmas Expo
WE HOPE TO SEE YOU ALL AGAIN IN DECEMBER! WWW.HUNTERCHRISTMAS.ORG 800-CALL-ELK, EXT. 517 HUNTERCHRISTMAS@RMEF.ORG
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Published on Feb 19, 2018