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Las Vegas; Fun for the whole family during NFR

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With her flashing neon lights, Las Vegas sings a siren call to many cowboys and cowgirls during the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo held Dec. 1-10, 2022. Of course, the big draw is the ten nights of rodeo – but many people soak in all that Vegas has to offer while they are in town. 

Fun for the Whole Family

Joey Williams, a mom of three, ranked 8th in the World Breakaway Roping Standings. She says the whole family will be joining her in Vegas this year.

“We’re taking it day by day out there, but I would love to squeeze in some things,” said Williams. “We definitely want to try to take the kids to the rodeo one night.”

Zane Thompson, son of four-time NFR bulldogger Frank Thompson, has fond memories of Vegas as a kid. Zane quips that he attended every NFR from 1997 to 2004, even though the first year was about 15 days before he was born.

“Every kid needs to go to the Finals at least one time,” said Thompson. 

One of Thompson’s favorite places to compete as a kid was the World Champion Dummy Ropings held at Cowboy Christmas. “Now they have all sorts of Junior NFR deals,” said Thompson. 

Rickie Engesser is headed to her first Finals as a competitor. The breakaway roper is ranked 9th in the World Standings. Courtesy Photo.

First-time Breakaway qualifier Rickie Engesser says her family always enjoys visiting the Stratosphere on the Vegas strip, as well as New York, New York. 

“We do a lot of different things outside of the rodeo,” said Engesser. She says the family tries to hit a few shows following the NFR performances; last year, they were able to attend Reba McEntire’s concert, and they enjoy walking the strip. 

Competition Hot Spots

While there is big money to be won by the best of the best at the Thomas and Mack, there are other places to enter up while in Vegas. 

Williams says she will be competing at The Masters at Resorts World and Chris Neal’s ropings at The Plaza.

Engesser will be competing at The Masters as well and hit the Last Chance Qualifier for the Rope for the Crown. Previously, Engesser has roped at the All In Breakaway as well. 

For Thompson, he has always enjoyed the ropings at South Point. “That fact that a guy who isn’t a professional can go and win $100 thousand is just pretty cool to me,” said Thompson. 

However, Thompson won’t be in attendance this year. “I told myself I won’t go again until I get one of those back numbers,” he said. 

Preparing for Vegas

The National Finals Breakaway Roping will be held Nov. 29-30 at the South Point Arena. The top ropers will compete for a purse of $250,000 during the 2-day, 10-round finals. 

Engesser, who is attending for her first time this year, says her preparations are more mental. “I’m trying to focus on the runs and not let my nerves or anxiety get in the way,” she said. 

Joey Williams preps for the NFR by roping the dummy, hitting local jackpots, and hauling to an indoor arena to get her reps in ahead of the 2022 National Finals Breakaway Roping. Courtesy Photo by Joe Duty.

The 9th-ranked roper lives in Spearfish, South Dakota, where they have already gotten some snow for the season. For her pre-Vegas prep, she will head to Arizona to hit a few jackpots and keep her horses sharp. 

Joey Williams knows all about the snow as well. Volborg, Montana, has had a fair share of winter weather this season. Williams says her horses don’t need the runs as much as she does. She is focusing on the mental prep too. “Coming back for a second year is a little more daunting,” said Williams. “You seem to have more expectations from yourself because you’ve been there once.”

Viva Las Vegas

Whether you are headed to the NFR for the first time or are a seasoned pro, there is always fun to be had in Las Vegas. Catch the NFR Performances each night at the Thomas and Mack Dec. 1-10, 2022.

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Brenna is a small-town kid who sees the value in rural businesses and what they bring to small-town quality of life. She earned her degree in Agricultural Communications, and has worked in newspaper, radio, and TV News. Brenna is passionate about the agriculture + western industries and has spent the last few years traveling the western U.S. working with clients in rural areas.

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