Nov 30, 2022
By Patrick Everson
You might think that actually attending a Wrangler National Finals Rodeo performance, live at the Thomas & Mack Center, would be the highlight of any fan’s trip to Las Vegas each December.
But the Wrangler NFR experience means different things to different people. To one group of people ambling around the Fremont Street Experience on Wednesday night, it’s the Downtown Hoedown that is the can’t-miss-event each year.
“I’ve come to the NFR probably 20 times. I come here every year,” said Greg Arich, who this year traveled from Calgary with buddies Jim Thurston and Steve Richter. “Wednesday night is the night that starts the rodeo. It’s the best night, period. I have pictures from the Hoedown going back for years.
“I’ve met more great people down here than you could ever possibly imagine.”
Including Richard Burton, who on Wednesday night became the newest NFR friend of Arich, Thurston and Richter.
“We just met,” said Burton, from Vancouver, Wash. “I told them that I speak Canadian, eh! And that I’ve had a Molson, and I like the movie Strange Brew.”
All four had large cups of beer in their hands, while taking in the Neal McCoy concert.
“It’s great just to meet people,” Burton said, while noting he’s got other plans this week, too. “I came here for the rodeo, but No. 1 for the George Strait concert.”
Said Thurston, pointing to his oversized brew: “I’m here for the long pours and the people. And of course, the rodeo. It’s the whole experience.”
Richter was getting his first taste of the Downtown Hoedown and ultimately the Wrangler NFR over these next few days, be it via tickets to the Thomas & Mack Center or one of the countless viewing parties.
“I’m an NFR virgin,” Richter said. “It’s just enjoyable talking to people you’ve never met. You’ve got free concerts, walking up and down Fremont Street, the sights are great. This is a blast.”
And who knows, in years ahead, perhaps Arich, Thurston and Richter will make a point of reconnecting with Burton at the Hoedown.
“We’re actually meeting people tonight who we met at last year’s Hoedown,” Arich said.
There’s nothing quite like reconnecting with the cowboy/cowgirl crowd each December. Welcome back to Vegas, everybody!