Arranged first in 1959, the National Finals Rodeo Las Vegas is an annual event, held at the Thomas & Mack Center and featuring top fifteen competitors from all the events. As of 2003 the ten-day event was visited by more than 170,000 spectators with another 9 million watching the rodeo on television. Recognized as the premier rodeo event in the nation, the National Finals Rodeo Las Vegas is organized and supported by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Associations, the oldest and most influential sanctioning body of championship rodeo events.
Being the final event in the PRCA season, the National Finals Rodeo Las Vegas features eight champions awarded in seven events, including bareback riding, steer wrestling, team roping, saddle-bronco riding, tie-down roping, bull riding and barrel racing. The latter is the only event exclusive to women. Because of the extreme popularity of the rodeo, all seats for each of its events are sold out. A great number of casinos host exclusive parties with the aim to accommodate rodeo fans, who cannot get tickets for the event.
It should be mentioned though that Las Vegas is not the primary host to the National Finals Rodeo. The very first event was arranged in Dallas, Texas and was hosted here for three years in a row. In 1963 the Texas rodeo made a one-year stop in Los Angeles, California, and from 1964 throughout 1984 the event was hosted by Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. It wasn't until 1985 that the National Finals Rodeo was moved to Las Vegas, where it has been successfully held ever since.
When the event first moved from Oklahoma, Las Vegas drew more than 14 million visitors a year, who were offered 53,000 hotel rooms. Today the city has over 130,000 hotel rooms to accommodate its guests, and the number of visitors total 35 million annually. Sponsored by Wrangler Jeans, the National Finals Rodeo Las Vegas is said to be sold out for 18th consecutive year, drawing a record attendance of 177,000 as of 2003. Since 1985 it has been one of the highlights on the local entertainment and sports calendar, with the tickets selling out a year in advance. Throughout a year in advance a lottery is held for the 140,000 available tickets.
If you don't win it, try the Mad Dash 30. Those lucky enough to get tickets for the event live can observe the top cowboys form across Canada and the United States, competing for $4.5 million in prizes. Seen as greatly influential, the National Finals Rodeo is surrounded by a number of events at nearby locales. In case you are not enjoying rodeo action at the Thomas & Mack Center, the Cowboy Christmas Gift Show is a wonderful alternative, featuring the latest in cowboy goods, western wear and more. Admission to the show is free. You can also see beautiful cowgirls competing for Miss Rodeo America or visit the Pro Rodeo League of Women Fashion Show.
The 2006 National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas will be held from December 1 through December 15, featuring ten performances, each of them consisting of seven events. The contract between the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and the event runs through 2009 and is believed to be extended through 2014.