The Wrangler® National Finals Rodeo® involves more than just the sold-out PRCA performances held this December in Arlington’s Globe Life Field. This year many of the auxiliary events that normally fill Las Vegas, Nevada, will instead take place in Fort Worth. That roster includes two of the biggest: the Junior World Finals and Cowboy Christmas.
Junior World Finals: December 3-12
Young cowboys and cowgirls ages 7 to 19 normally compete in their own version of the biggest event in rodeo – the Junior World Finals presented by Yeti - at the Las Vegas Convention Center. This year, however, they get an opportunity to ride and rope in one of their sport’s most historic venues: Cowtown Coliseum in the Fort Worth Stockyards. For a $10 daily ticket, up to 1,100 spectators per day can watch young stars-in-the-making make their runs from 7:30 every morning until mid-afternoon. Then the coliseum will open back up in the evening for a Wrangler® NFR® watch party. A separate ticket will be required to attend the watch party.
From Thursday, December 3rd through Monday, December 7th, boys of all ages will contest rough stock events, including bull riding, bareback bronc riding and saddle bronc riding. Las Vegas Events, the company that puts on the Junior World Finals, works with the event producers to bring in bucking stock from as far away as the Pacific Northwest. The contractors specially breed these animal athletes to be smaller versions of what you might see in a PRCA event so the kids can get an authentic experience on a mount they can handle.
Timed events take place December 8-12, including standard NFR® events like tie-down roping, barrel racing, steer wrestling, team roping, along with pole bending and breakaway. Overall more than 700 competitors from 30+ states and four countries will vie for Jr. World Finals buckles. To get to Fort Worth, the contestants will have earned their spots via qualifying events put on by a half dozen rodeo producers who hold 8-12 qualifiers per event throughout the year.
According to Bo Gardner of LVE, the organization expected reduced numbers this year due to the pandemic, but have experienced the opposite as young people seem to have turned to rodeo with other recreation options unavailable. The Cowtown Coliseum will have special measures in place for the event. Attendance will be held below capacity with masks required. Expect to see signage about distancing and state regulations will be followed.
Cowboy Christmas: December 3-12
Another Vegas Wrangler® NFR® staple has moved to Fort Worth as well: Cowboy Christmas. This shopping extravaganza runs December 3-12 at the Fort Worth Convention Center on the south end of downtown. The exhibition begins at 10 a.m. each day and remains open until 7 p.m. to accommodate locals wanting to stop by after work. Admission is free.
The show spans more than 250,000 square feet and features nearly 250 exhibitors from across the country. Unique products will include custom-made jewelry, western wear, boots and spurs, furniture, original art, handmade crafts and home goods. An abundance of official Wrangler® NFR® and PRCA merchandise will be for sale as well.
Gardner emphasized that the experience is one fully focused on western lifestyle. He also emphasized that many of the Wrangler® NFR® sponsors view the event as a showcase and may bring new or special offerings.
In addition to some of the larger companies bringing their best, many smaller ones work all year to prepare for the Cowboy Christmas show. Because of that, you’re likely to see items you won’t find elsewhere. In addition, LVE created a wait list for local North Texas firms wanting to exhibit, and have so far managed to find 20 or spots for them within the convention center footprint.
In the facility’s arena, the Rodeo Live Stage presented by RMEF will host two shows daily, plus live local music. In the Cowboy Revival with Shane Minor show, the songwriter (and former bull rider) will talk to guests that include other songwriters and well-known country music artists.
Outside the Barrel with Flint Rasmussen will feature interviews with Wrangler® NFR® contestants by a decorated bullfighter. Though health considerations preclude a traditional autograph session, the rodeo athletes will be supplying signed cards for the attendees.
The Cowboy Christmas event will implement a number of pandemic-related precautions, including voluntary temperature checks at various entry points and mask-wearing is required. A group of volunteers will implement crowd control measures and respectfully disperse crowds when needed to maintain social distancing. Plenty of hand sanitizer dispensers will be scattered throughout the facility.