National Rodeo Finals, Cowboy Christmas mart, country music barrel into Las Vegas

National Rodeo Finals, Cowboy Christmas mart, country music barrel into Las Vegas
Rider Tyler Smith gets bucked off a bull during last year'sWrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. Each December, the event draws hundreds of thousands of rodeo fans to Las Vegas. (Sam Morris / Las Vegas News Bureau)

Cowboys will invade Las Vegas this week when the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo rides into town. Several related events, including a Christmas Cowboy marketplace and themed cocktails, will make boots and Western shirts the perfect attire on and off the Strip.

National Finals Rodeo
Rodeo fans make their way into the Thomas & Mack Center for last year's Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. Sam Morris / Las Vegas News Bureau

Single-event tickets for certain rodeo events were still available as of last week, but the rodeo itself — which runs Thursday to Dec. 16 at the Thomas & Mack Center at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas — traditionally sells out.

The good news is dozens of bars, lounges and restaurants throughout Las Vegas will be carrying the action live on big-screen TVs.

National Rodeo Finals in Las Vegas
As the action unfolds on TV at Gilley’s Las Vegas, a cowboy contemplates a ride on the saloon’s star attraction: the mechanical bull. Treasure Island

Gilley’s Las Vegas, the honky tonk joint at Treasure Island known as a home to the two-step, whiskey and a mechanical bull, will offer live broadcasts, and food and drink specials.Gilley’s will also an autograph session with bull riders from noon to 2 p.m. Dec. 13.

Cinch Boyd Gaming Chute-Out
J.C. Malone tries his hand at calf roping during last year's Cinch Boyd Gaming Chute-Out at the Orleans Arena. Boyd Gaming

Not all the live rodeo action will take place at the Thomas & Mack Center. There will be plenty of excitement — from barrel racing to bull riding — during the Cinch Boyd Gaming Chute-Out from Thursday through Saturday at the Orleans Arena. Some of rodeo’s biggest names will be competing, including Wade Sundell, who this year won the $1-million prize at the American rodeo. Sundell will show off his saddle bronc riding skills during next month’s event. Tickets start at $30.

World Series of Team Roping
Robert Reynoso (left) and Jason Williams ride their way toward a $300,000 prize during the 2016 World Series finale at South Point. World Series of Team Roping

Roping is the name of the game from Saturday through Dec. 17 at the World Series of Team Roping at the South Point Arena. The richest roping event in the world, it boasts a purse of $11 million. Best of all for rodeo fans, all the action is free.

Cody Johnson
Bull rider-turned-country music artist Cody Johnson will perform four free shows at the South Point Showroom during rodeo events. Cameron Powell

Country singer Cody Johnson, who will perform Dec. 13-16 at the South Point Hotel & Casino, is a perfect pairing for the NFR crowd.

Johnson — a native of tiny Sebastopol, Texas — was a horse-riding prison guard before becoming a semi-professional bull rider. He exploded onto the country music scene with a Top 10 hit album in 2014.

Johnson’s shows begin at 11 p.m. each evening in the South Point Showroom. Admission is free.

Nightly free entertainment is also scheduled Thursday through Dec. 16 at MGM Grand, which is billing itself as Home of the Champions. Among the big names staying there is world champion cowboy Trevor Brazile, who has 23 National Finals Rodeo gold buckles.

A gathering spot called the Central will be branded the Gold Buckle Zone, with live entertainment nightly beginning at 5 p.m.

Tuf Cooper and Trevor Brazil
Some of the biggest names on the rodeo circuit, including Tuf Cooper (left) and Trevor Brazile, will sign autographs at the MGM Grand.. MGM Resorts

The resort will also host autograph sessions featuring Brazile and other rodeo stars from 10-11:30 a.m. Friday and Dec. 15. Tie-down roping contestants will appear at a different session noon to 2 p.m. Saturday.

All will be held in the hotel’s main lobby.

Rising stars of the band Parmalee (left to right: Josh McSwain, Matt Thomas, Barry Knox and Scott Thomas) will wow country music fans Sunday in The Foundry at SLS. Joseph Llanes

Popular country band Parmalee will entertain at SLS on Sunday with tickets starting at $22.50. Throughout the National Finals Rodeo, the hotel will also be providing free shuttle service to and from Thomas & Mack.

Aaron Watson
Country singer Aaron Watson draws a crowd of country fans during last year's Downtown Hoedown in downtown Las Vegas. Fremont Street Experience

One of the biggest parties takes place each year in downtown Las Vegas, where the Fremont Street Experience is transformed into the Downtown Hoedown for a pre-rodeo blowout.

The five-block-long entertainment district will be a sea of cowboy hats on Wednesday as the National Finals Rodeo kick-off party gets underway at 4:30 p.m. Throughout the evening, bands will perform on three stages. The line-up includes Neal McCoy, Kip Moore, Carly Pearce, Drake White and the Big Fire and Chancey Williams & the Younger Brothers Band.

Cowboy Christmas
More than 350 vendors selling belt buckles, classic hats and more fill the South Halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center for Cowboy Christmas. Mark Damon / Las Vegas News Bureau

Jeans, shirts and hats — in fact, all things country — are for sale when Cowboy Christmas takes over the South Halls of Las Vegas Convention Center each December.

Cowboy Christmas gifts
Western clothing and one-of-a-kind gifts such as cowhide Bible covers can be found at the annual Cowboy Christmas marketplace. Mark Damon/Las Vegas News Bureau

The marketplace, the National Finals Rodeo-sanctioned shopping spot, is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily from Thursday through Dec. 16. The exhibit halls are transformed into a massive mall of all things rodeo and Western. Beyond the expected clothing and accessories, the more unique offerings include wine racks fashioned from antlers and Bible covers made of cowhide.

There’s no admission charge.

The Cosmopolitan
The Cosmopolitan creates cocktails to honor the National Finals Rodeo, including the Acting Single, Drinking Double. Anthony Mair

The Cosmopolitan’s mixologist Mariena Mercer has concocted a ten-gallon hat’s worth of cocktails with cowboys in mind.

Drinks include:

Acting Single, Drinking Double: Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel whiskey, ginger syrup and ginger beer.

Friends in Low Places: Jack Daniel’s honey whiskey, Giffard vanilla syrup, pineapple juice and lemon juice.

Southern Gentleman: Jack Daniel’s Gentleman Jack, Amaro Meletti liqueur and ancho chai-masala syrup.

MB Steak
Cut to be shared by two people, MB Steak’s 36-ounce Tomahawk will be available for pairing with a flight of three upscale bourbons. Jim Decker

Bourbon is the suggested adult beverage to pair with the Tomahawk steak at Hard Rock’s MB Steak. The Tomahawk, a 36-ounce cut intended for sharing, costs $99. The restaurant’s “rodeo flight” will include 1-ounce pours of three high-end bourbons. It’s priced at $29.


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