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Las Vegas welcomes cowboys and all things country during National Finals Rodeo

Las Vegas welcomes cowboys and all things country during National Finals Rodeo
Cowboys lead their horses back to their barns after a night of action at the 2015 National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. One of Sin City's biggest annual events, the rodeo returns Dec. 1-10. (Sam Morris / Las Vegas News Bureau)

Each December, Las Vegas goes a little crazy for country. Cowboys descend on the city and country music abounds when the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo returns.

The rodeo features competitions in bareback riding, steer wrestling, team roping, saddle bronc riding, tie-down roping, barrel racing and bull riding.

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The event at the Thomas & Mack Center at the University of Nevada Las Vegas has been a sellout for 26 years in a row. But that doesn't mean there isn't plenty to do all over town if you don't have a ticket — and much of it is free. You might even be lucky enough to snag a last-minute seat (see below).

The National Finals Rodeo is one of the biggest events of year, and in Vegas that's saying something. Almost every resort in town wants in on the action, with viewing parties (often in the race and sports books), live entertainment and – just in time for the holidays – plenty of cowboy-themed shopping.

Here's a taste of what to expect:

Fans crowd Fremont Street Experience for the 2015 Downtown Hoedown, an evening of free concerts to kick off the rodeo.
Fans crowd Fremont Street Experience for the 2015 Downtown Hoedown, an evening of free concerts to kick off the rodeo. (Tom Donoghue)

Downtown Hoedown on Monday at Fremont Street Experience. Grab your boots and hat, and kick off the rodeo with six hours of country music, including headliners Old Dominion and Sawyer Brown. It's free.

Saddles on display for the masses to ogle, and maybe purchase, at the 2015 Cowboy Christmas gift show.
Saddles on display for the masses to ogle, and maybe purchase, at the 2015 Cowboy Christmas gift show. (Sam Morris / Las Vegas News Bureau)

Cowboy Christmas from Dec. 1 to 10 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Everything from spurs to saddles for rodeo fans ready to stock up on gifts. There's no charge to browse.

Lassos at the ready, two competitors on horseback chase a calf during last year's World Series of Team Roping Finale.
Lassos at the ready, two competitors on horseback chase a calf during last year's World Series of Team Roping Finale. (South Point Hotel and Casino)

The Priefert World Series of Team Roping Finale from Dec. 5 to 11 at the South Point hotel-casino. The second richest equestrian event in the world has a whopping $10-million purse. Admission is free.

Trace Adkins is among the performers who'll take the Golden Nugget stage during the rodeo finals.
Trace Adkins is among the performers who'll take the Golden Nugget stage during the rodeo finals. (Golden Nugget Las Vegas)

Trace Adkins on Dec.  9 at the Golden Nugget. The "Ladies Love Country Boys" singer is a highlight in the resort's December concert lineup. Tickets range from $91 to $271.

With rodeo tickets already snatched up, the venue will offer what it calls the Mad Dash. Here's how it works: You buy a ticket to the sold-out event of your choice and arrive early to find an empty seat in the arena's balcony. If the reserved seat holder shows up, move to another empty seat. If that fails, you can get a refund.

A searchable list of events around Southern Nevada timed to the rodeo finals can be found online.

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