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January 22, 2018

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2012 National Finals Rodeo:

Q&A: Cheat sheet offers tips for National Finals Rodeo newcomers


Tom Donoghue/

The sixth night of the 53rd Wrangler National Finals Rodeo at the Thomas & Mack Center on Dec. 6, 2011.

The Thomas & Mack Center again is being invaded by spur-wearing, lasso-tossing cowboys and cowgirls from all over the country — plus one Canadian, barrel racer Lindsay Sears — for the 2012 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

For the next 10 days, the contestants will ply their trade on a national stage, where their skills in a variety of events — such as bronco riding and roping steers — will be scrutinized. Events run from 6:45 to 9 p.m. daily through Saturday, Dec. 15.

For the rodeo novice, here’s a guide to one of Las Vegas’ biggest events.

Can I still get tickets?

The 17,100 tickets available each night are gone, but if you want to track down tickets, there are still options. You can try the NFR’s Mad Dash 30 ticket option, which gives spectators access to the concourses and a 30-minute window to find an empty seat in the balcony. If you come up empty, you can either watch the event from the concourse or get a refund for the ticket, minus processing fees. For all ticket inquiries, fans can call the Thomas & Mack Center ticket office at 866-388-FANS. Tickets can also be found through the NFR’s official fan-to-fan ticket exchange.

And finally, people itching to watch the rodeo can visit the official NFR on-site ticket exchange booth at the Cowboy Christmas Gift Show, which is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

What do tickets cost?

Although all 10 days of the event are technically sold out, the face value of individual tickets is as follows: balcony (including Mad Dash 30 tickets), $51; plaza level, $73; and gold buckle tickets, $250. Tickets offered for sale on the NFR’s ticket exchange ranged from a low of $52 for a balcony seat and $202.50 for a plaza level seat to the session on Monday, Dec. 12, to a high of $300 for a balcony seat and $720 for a plaza level seat for the closing session on Saturday, Dec. 15.

Where can I watch on television?

Great American Country TV will telecast the National Finals Rodeo live all 10 nights. GACTV is available on Dish Satellite TV channel 167, DirecTV channel 326 and Cox Cable Las Vegas channel 374. A live satellite feed of the rodeo also will be broadcast to 39 hotel properties in Las Vegas.

What can I expect regarding parking?

Limited parking is available in the lots surrounding the Thomas & Mack, at a cost of $15 a car, according to Todd Clawson, associate director of the Thomas & Mack Center. Free off-site parking with frequent shuttles to and from the Thomas & Mack Center is available at 22 hotel-casinos. Shuttles run to the rodeo from 5 to 7 p.m. and return to the hotels from 9 to 10:30 p.m. Check out the pickup locations here.

Can I bring my own food or drinks?

The Thomas & Mack Center won’t allow any off-site food or drinks into the event, but concessions are available at a variety of vendors in the Pro Rodeo zone in the parking lot and more than 16 stations inside the venue. Food purchased in the Pro Rodeo zone can be brought into the venue, but other drinks and other provisions won’t be allowed.

With such a big event, what kind of security will be in place?

In addition to about 45 off-duty police officers, the Thomas & Mack Center will have around 150 other security personnel. They’ll be checking bags at the door, restricting food, drinks and video cameras from being brought inside. Cameras for still photos are welcome.

Now onto the event itself: What are the main rules of rodeo, besides the one about staying on the bucking bronco or bull for eight seconds?

Casual fans can avoid a lot of confusion by understanding two basic rules. One, which applies to bronco riding, is that the rider’s heels must be above the horse’s shoulders when it makes its first jump or the cowboy will be disqualified. The other rule, which applies to roping events, requires riders to give a head start to livestock they’re chasing. A violation brings a 10-second penalty. In both cases, fans can see what otherwise looks like a spectacular performance go for naught, not unlike watching a kick returner in football run for a touchdown, only to then see the play nullified by a penalty. The difference is that in rodeo, the flag isn’t thrown on the field, and fans may not understand why the penalty occurred.

What are the animals worth?

A barrel-racing horse with good bloodlines and training can sell for as much as $300,000, experts say. Those animals are at the top of the pyramid, value-wise, because of their athleticism and ability to respond to input from riders.

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