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National Finals Rodeo

It’s difficult to picture Las Vegas without the National Finals Rodeo

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Thrown for a loop: Locals are having a hard time picturing the holidays without the NFR.
Photo: L.E. Baskow

Dear Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association: We started feeling insecure in 2010, when Cowboys Stadium in Dallas seemed to catch your eye. But the head of your outfit brushed it off, said you weren’t actively seeking a sexy new partner for the National Finals Rodeo. You were happy with us. Looking back on three decades of mutual affection, the sellout crowds at the Thomas & Mack and the entire city celebrating you to the point where you felt like “kings of the castle,” it’s hard to believe you could walk away. We know it’s complicated. Las Vegas Events wanted to renew vows with another 10-year contract. You rejected it after more than a year of consideration. All the news said NFR was bound for Florida in 2015, with plans green-lighted for a $100 million, 24,000-seat arena. In our heads, we appreciated that the extra $4 million in the Florida contract would mean the cowboys and cowgirls get more prize money for their sweat. In our hearts, we felt like Dolly singing to Burt about bittersweet memories. It’s not just the $92.8 million in non-gaming economic impact you brought to our lives in 2012. It’s the way you made us feel, filling our streets with chivalrous folks, Wrangler butts and the spirit of the West. When we heard that maybe you were just playing hard to get, hoping for more negotiation, our hearts fluttered. But LVE said it had to move on and start planning another rodeo event, as it might be left holding the reins anyway. We’re not sure how to feel or what’s next. But if we do ride into the sunset of this NFR era next Christmas, we can’t look back. That’s one thing Las Vegas never does.

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Erin Ryan

Erin got her first newspaper job in 2002 thanks to a campfire story about Bigfoot. In her award-winning work for ...

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