For the the past 27 years, Las Vegas has gone country for 10 days in December as the city hosts the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR) where world championships are decided.
This year’s rodeo is Dec. 6 – 15th and will feature 10 nights of the best contestants from the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and Women’s Professional Rodeo Association. Up for grabs is over $6 million in prize money and world championships in bareback riding, steer wrestling, team roping, saddle bronc riding, tie-down roping, women’s barrel racing and bull riding.
Tie-down roper Justin Maass from Giddings is having the best year of his career and leads the world standings with $144,001. He started his year out by winning the National Western Stock Show rodeo in Denver, Colo. This is his seventh qualification. He will be one of 38 contestants representing Texas.
To compete at the WNFR, contestants had to be among the top 15 in the world standings. They traveled across the United States, paying their own entry fees and expenses, hoping to earn enough money to be among the elite athletes that advance to rodeo’s championship event. The WNFR has seen continued growth in prize money and fan support since it moved to Las Vegas.
Each contestant will compete in 10 individual rounds, which will pay the winner $18,257. On Dec. 15th their total scores and times will be added together for average placings. First place in that category will win $46,820 and a saddle as the WNFR champion.
World championships are determined by adding a contestant’s WNFR and regular season earnings together. Those champions have the esteemed honor of wearing the traditional gold buckle that signifies they are the world’s best in the sport of rodeo.