Night time is the right time

Just because the last bull has bucked and signaled the end of a round of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo doesn’t mean the night is over. In fact, most times it means it has just begun.

After all, it’s Las Vegas.

Fans lucky enough to make the trek to the “Entertainment Capital of the World” have a seemingly endless array of post-round party options at their disposal. From free concerts and autograph sessions to buckle presentations and talk shows, rodeo-themed entertainment options abound in Las Vegas during the Wrangler NFR.

Every night, each round winner from the rodeo is available to sign autographs in the ProRodeo Zone outside the Thomas & Mack Center, so fans can cozy up to their favorite cowboy or cowgirl and say howdy. If you don’t want to fight the taxi lines (who does?), there are nightly concerts featuring up-and-coming country music artists at the Cowboy Corral in the Cox Pavilion, which is attached to the Thomas & Mack.

I wrote about the phenomenon last year, but it bears repeating. Las Vegas casinos have begun to go above and beyond in their efforts to attract the cowboy crowd to their properties, and that often means extravagant parties and celebrations that provide lasting memories to members of the Western world.

Fans can tell their taxi driver a different destination virtually every night after the performance, as there are celebrations going on at a number of casinos around town.

Want to see rodeo’s version of a late-night talk show? Then head to the showroom at The Gold Coast for the National Finals Tonight Show hosted by Don Gay, Joe Beaver and Dan Miller. That show begins at 10:30 each night and is a funny and entertaining way to relax and unwind after the rodeo while sipping on a beverage and enjoying the banter among the show hosts and NFR contestants.

The National Finals Tonight Show is hosted by Don Gay, Joe Beaver and Dan Miller each night at The Gold Coast Showroom and is a fun way to unwind after the Wrangler NFR.

The go-round winners can be found each night at the South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa’s Dance Hall in the main casino at 11 p.m., and that is a must-see for rodeo fans who have never experienced it. There is tons of laughter and tear-jerking moments as the contestants pick up their buckles while joined on stage by family and friends, and the presentation is hosted by Wrangler NFR announcer Randy Corley and fan-favorite funnyman Flint Rasmussen. Concerts follow the presentations, so fans can two-step the night away.

Go-round winners can be found at The South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa each night for the buckle presentations. Contestants, such as saddle bronc rider Chuck Schmidt here, are joined by family and friends on the stage.

The Mirage is a great place to go after the performances, as the casino converts its sizable sports book into a concert and dance hall. Fans can share a frosty beverage with their favorite cowboys, as many of the contestants – especially the burly bulldoggers – can be found there each night.

It’s also a great place to see talented country music artists, who keep the place jumping as part of the entertainment lineup for Rodeo Vegas. Created by former NFR bulldogger K.C. Jones, Rodeo Vegas has become a big deal in Las Vegas, as contestants are just as likely to be seen in Rodeo Vegas leather jackets as their NFR contestant jackets.

The concerts begin as soon as the rodeo action ends, and the party rolls on until 4 a.m. This year’s lineup features Miss Willie Brown (Dec. 6), Josh Thompson (Dec. 7), Craig Morgan (Dec. 8), Sam Riddle (Dec. 9-12), Daryle Singletary and Justin McBride (Dec. 13-14) and Chris Cagle (Dec. 15).

The Mirage’s sports book is transformed each night into a dance and concert hall, where fans can mingle with NFR contestants and dance the night away at Rodeo Vegas concerts.

ProRodeo Hall of Fame bull rider Gary Leffew has been gaining momentum in recent years with his Legendary Buck’N Ball, which is held each night at the Gold Coast Hotel’s Arizona Ballroom from 9 p.m. “Until the cows come home.” Fans can take in the National Finals Tonight Show downstairs and head upstairs to Gary Leffew’s party to fill their night with a great 1-2 entertainment punch. The Buck’N Ball has live music with The Texas Jamm Band, which features members of George Strait’s Ace in the Hole Band and The Scotty Alexander Band.

Another relatively new post-round party option is at the MGM Grand, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself there last year. The massive casino hosts the Gold Buckle Zone NFR Event Celebration at its main bar, The Central, next to the sports book and the iconic Studio 54 dance club.

Fans can enjoy two live bands, giveaways and dancing at the celebration, and it’s worth a trip there just to see the Studio 54 dance floor full of people shaking it while wearing cowboy boots and hats.

The iconic Studio 54 dance club at MGM Grand is a great place to unwind after the rodeo, and it’s pretty darn neat to see cowboy hats and boots out on the dance floor.

If the bull riding inspires you to try your hand at the sport, mosey on over to Sam’s Town, where the casino hosts nightly mechanical bull riding contests for cash and prizes. Championship buckles and $2,000 in cash and free play are awarded each night, with the final contest beginning at 8:30 p.m.

In addition to those nightly festivities, there are a handful of other events on specific nights that may appeal to rodeo fans. From the PRCA Welcome Reception (Dec. 4) and the PRCA Awards Banquet (Dec. 5) to the Miss Rodeo America Kick-Off Party (Dec. 6) and MRA autograph sessions Dec. 7-8, fans can enjoy one-of-a-kind experiences with rodeo royalty and legends. Tickets are required for all of those events, so log on to www.prorodeo.com, www.missrodeoamerica.com or www.nfrexperience.com for more info.

It’s been said many times before, but there’s truly nothing in the world like the Wrangler NFR, and the fact that it takes place in Las Vegas makes it even more special. As the popular saying goes, “variety is the spice of life,” and I encourage any fans who make the trip to the rodeo this December to take advantage of the events I’ve just described.

You won’t be disappointed.

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