Apr 22, 2021
Some Things Just Go Together
By Susan Kanode
Some things just go together, like peanut butter and jelly, hats and boots, spurs and latigos and the NFR and Cowboy Christmas.
There are ways to change those traditional pairings. Like peanut butter and jelly on wheat bread, hats and boots with skirts and dresses, but the major components remain the staple of the pairing. Last year proved that the staples could happen in another location and boy oh boy was Texas great to and for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo and Cowboy Christmas.
But there is no where like Las Vegas and not only is the Nevada city the bread for our sandwich, but they also add the extras like nowhere else. With the 2021 NFR coming back to the Entertainment Capital of the World, a recent announcement has added some fresh fruit to our sandwich and this year’s NFR promises to be the ultimate PB&J for fans in every capacity.
The thing that has become the jam for the rodeo world for the past year is the partnership with The Cowboy Channel. That has now been expanded with Las Vegas Events with the announcement that they have become the title sponsor for Cowboy Christmas.
After watching what they have done with their broadcasts, the Cowboy Channel Plus app, and all of their programming since they partnered with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, this development seemed a natural progression for everyone involved.
“The Cowboy Channel Cowboy Christmas brings a new dynamic and even greater value to our exhibitors and fans,” said LVE President Pat Christenson. “Their presence throughout the rodeo season makes The Cowboy Channel a natural partner for Cowboy Christmas. In a few short years, The Cowboy Channel has become the embodiment of the Western lifestyle and an important component in promoting the NFR Experience.”
That assurance is for three years with the option of two more years. For rodeo fans, that’s good news. They know that they will be able to watch Flint Rasmussen’s Behind the Barrel and other programming during the day. The very popular NFR Tailgate Party that was in the Fort Worth Stock Yards will now be at The Cowboy Channel Cowboy Christmas.
When the NFR moved to Las Vegas in 1985, contestants, personnel and fans hoped that it would be a good thing for rodeo and provide an opportunity for the sport’s growth, bigger prize money for the contestants and enhanced experiences for the fans.
The first Cowboy Christmas was held at the Tropicana in 1986 and 1987. It was a great start, but quickly outgrew the facilities there. It moved to Cashman Field and was there through 1997. The next year it moved the Las Vegas Convention Center where it continues to grow.
Along with The Cowboy Channel Cowboy Christmas, which encompasses more than 500,000 square feet of vendor space for approximately 350 vendors, there are activities that offer experiences for all-ages. The show is adjacent to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s Hunter & Outdoor Christmas Expo. It includes the Wrangler Rodeo Arena, home of the Junior World Finals, NFR Central, and the Rodeo Live Stage presented by RMEF.
It would be hard for original NFR committee members to imagine the Western lifestyle extravaganza that the events have become today. Texas, and in particular the DFW metroplex, proved that they could host the Wrangler NFR last year, but there is only one Vegas and it’s exciting to see the events moving back there this year.
“I’m very excited to be going back to Vegas in December. It’s been the norm for me since 1991,” said Jeff Medders, general manager for the Cowboy Channel. “There is an energy there that can’t be duplicated. The NFR and Vegas go hand-in-hand. It’s like a fishbowl in Las Vegas. So much excitement and so much entertainment happens in a small area.”
Between the Las Vegas Convention Center, home of The Cowboy Channel Cowboy Christmas and the Thomas & Mack Center where the competition happens, there will be a lot happening and most of it will be broadcast through the RFD-TV networks, including The Cowboy Channel.
After the Tailgate show, programming will move to the Thomas & Mack Center for Western Sports Roundup, NFR Pre Show, all of the rodeo action, and NFR Post Show. And the production crews will be bringing back commentators and production enhancements that worked last year.
“We felt like we set the bar pretty high for the first time that the NFR was on The Cowboy Channel and RFD-TV last year,” Medders added. “We set a goal to keep improving the rodeo experience for the fans. We built a really good team and we’re planning on that team all being in Las Vegas this December. Our goal is to get the intensity of the Thomas & Mack and the whole NFR Experience across in television.”
It’s all good news for fans, competitors, and vendors. Whether attending live and experiencing all that is the NFR and The Cowboy Channel Cowboy Christmas or watching on television. From the Junior World Finals to personality-driven interviews and behind the scenes stories, between RFD-TV, the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association and Las Vegas Events, the 2021 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo will be one for the record books.