The Wrangler National Finals Rodeo kicks off on Dec. 7 and ends Dec. 16.The top 15 contestants in bareback riding, steer wrestling, team roping, saddle bronc riding, tie-down roping, barrel racing and bull riding will be competing at the Thomas & Mack Center for $10 million in prize money.In 2016, more than 168,000 people attended the rodeo over 10 days. In addition to the rodeo, rodeo fans are able to attend special concerts and events and enjoy a variety fo deals during the rodeo.
The following is a list of concerts, events and deals for 2017,The Plaza is hosting downtown Las Vegas’ first and only practice arena and stalls presented by Heel-O-Matic. Team roping practice will be held daily Dec. 4-16, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with grade A and B live steers or Heel-O-Matic’s Ultimate Ground Driven Trainer available for use. The Plaza will also offer live NFR viewing parties, free shuttle service and numerous drink and food specials during the 10-day event.
South Point Hotel, Casino and Spa celebrates the beginning of the 2017 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR) with a star-studded rodeo gold carpet “Road to the Gold Buckle” during the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s (PRCA) welcome reception. Fans will have the opportunity to witness their favorite WNFR competitors walk the gold carpet, dressed to impress, before entering the private welcome reception. Notable attendees include Sage Kimzey, ranked No. 1 Bull Rider in earnings; Lisa Lockhart, fan favorite barrel racer and last year’s NFR Average winner; Trevor Brazille and brother-in-law Tuf Cooper return to the NFR as number 1 and 2 in PRCA World Standings for the All-Around race. The gold carpet will begin at 5 p.m.
Cowboy Christmas at the Las Vegas Convention Center is a one-of-a-kind western gift show featuring some of the top cowboy and country western vendors in the country. There are 400 exhibitors total, selling everything from clothes, original art and official Wrangler NFR and PRCA merchandise. There is also live entertainment. Rodeo Way, one of the six main interactive elements of Cowboy Christmas, will also feature unique exhibits that highlight the best of rodeo. Exhibitors include Bullfighters Only, Calgary Stampede, Cheyenne Frontier Days, Days of ’47, Indian National Finals Rodeo, Pendleton Round-Up, RODEOHOUSTON and San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo. Admittance is free.
South Point Arena at the South Point hotel-casino welcomes the return of the Benny Binion Bucking Horse and Bull Sale, one of the premier events during the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR), on Thursday, Dec. 7. The United Bucking Horse Association (UBHA) Futurity Finals & Sale will feature the top 36 bucking horses in North America competing in their year-end finals event. All colts entered in the UBHA Finals Event will be sold immediately after they are bucked. Following the event will be the “PRCA Permit Holder of the Year Challenge & Bucking Stock Sale” at 12 p.m. where the top five PRCA Permit Holders in all PRCA rodeo events will compete in a two-round showdown. During the event Permit Holders will be bucking the sale stock and will conclude with the sale of Barebacks, Saddle Broncs and 24 Bulls. All bucking stock is sold as they are bucked during the performance. Advance purchase tickets are $15 and are available at the South Point Box Office.
McNeely has never been aboard Virgil. Which is probably a good thing.“Yep,” he laughed.When McNeely watches his bareback horses in action, you understand, he’s not rooting for the cowboy.“That’s right,” he said. “Either rooting for them to get bucked off or win it.”He said there are several colts he’s got high hopes for. McNeely was asked if it’s a good living.“Kinda depends,” he said. “It’s hit and miss, like you’re playing the lotto. One horse maybe brings 200 bucks and another might bring 60 to 70,000.”
McNeely has about 60 or 70 bucking horses now. He recently sold a 2-year-old to Henry Real Bird that’s bucking at the United Bucking Horse Association Finals, which is the same time as the NFR and is also in Las Vegas.McNeely said bucking horses are in his blood.“I’ve broke a lotta horses,” he said. “I’ve been around horses all my life and just decided to breed some bucking horses. It’s an adrenaline rush to watch them buck and sure makes a guy proud to have one go this far in the world.”
McNeely still has sisters and a half-brother to Virgil. The sire, named “Big John,” was sold to Sammy Andrews of Texas and also eventually was purchased by McDonald.“He was used in the Calgary Stampede and got a colt out of him in the Binion Sale in Vegas during the NFR,” McNeely said.Benny Binion’s World Famous Bucking Horse Sale and Bull Sale at the South Point Arena in Las Vegas is Dec. 7-8.Jake Vold was 90.75 points on Virgil at Ponoka, Alberta, in July at the Ponoko Stampede. That was the fourth-highest bareback score of 2017. Virgil bucked Vold off just the other day at the Canadian Finals Rodeo.
Austin Foss scored 88 on Virgil to win at Lynden, Wash., in August.“He’s a horse that bucks every time,” Foss told the PRCA. “If a guy is doing his job you’re going to win on him every time. That combo makes him obviously the riders’ choice.”When McNeely was young, he yearned to ride bucking horses. In high school he gave it a good try.
And how did it go?“I went to raising ‘em instead of trying to ride ‘em,” he said with a laugh. “It’s a little easier.”
The National Finals Rodeo is scheduled for Dec. 7-16 at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas. The Montana contingent includes Ty Erickson of Helena (steer wrestling), Dustin Bird of Cut Bank and Clay Tryan of Billings (team roping), Wolf Point native Lisa Lockhart of Oelrichs, S.D. (barrel racing), and JR Vezain of Wyoming (bareback), whose father is from Great Falls and whose grandparents still live in