#NFR16 Notebook Day 5

Saddle up, Santa! Cowboy Christmas draws shoppers, rodeo fans in Las Vegas

Chase Webster, 13, tries on a hat at the Cowboy Christmas gift show in the south halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, in Las Vegas. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) 




Cowboy Christmas runs 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through Saturday at the Las Vegas Convention Center, 3150 Paradise Road. Admission is free.


Click here for complete coverage of the 2016 National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas


A brightly decorated red-and-gold Christmas tree lights the way to an event almost as beloved as the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. For many, it’s the occasion that marks the start of the holiday shopping season.

Thousands of rodeo fans came to Cowboy Christmas on Sunday for some retail therapy and entertainment. The 31st annual shopping spectacular features more than 400 vendors occupying a 440,000-square-foot space in the Las Vegas Convention Center’s south hall.

Cowboy Christmas drew about 216,000 people last year, and Anne Aznarez, Las Vegas Events director of show operations and exhibits, expects the number to stay the same this year.

“People tell me that they wait all year long to do their shopping at Cowboy Christmas,” Aznarez said. “The artists featured here are amazing and have eclectic tastes for everyone to enjoy whether they’re rodeo fans or not.”

Since 1986, Cowboy Christmas has offered customers saddles, custom-made jewelry, furniture, original art, crafts and all things Western. Amid a sea of attendees clad in studded jeans and cowboys hats, everything from baby onesies reading “Rootin’ Tootin’ Spit-Up Shootin’ Cowboy,” to beer bottle night lights to calendars featuring scantily clad women holding animals skulls could be seen.

Gary Sullivan, president of Seattle-based the Ride Guys Inc., has been coming to Cowboy Christmas for the past 10 years. His company sells restored coin-operated mechanical horses dating back to the 1950s. Only these horses don’t cost 5 cents to ride. Instead, they go for roughly $7,000.

“A lot of people remember riding them when they were kids, so they buy them mostly for nostalgia,” Sullivan said. “I always sell out during Cowboy Christmas. As of right now, I only have two of these horses left.”

The Bohlin booth had perhaps the most outstanding item: a $219,500 saddle made from kangaroo leather, $25,000 worth of rose, yellow and green gold and 20 pounds of silver.

Bohlin President and CEO David K. Marold said his company has made saddles for movie cowboys Roy Rogers and Gene Autry and the television show “The Lone Ranger.”

Besides shopping, Cowboy Christmas attendees could see the inaugural Junior NFR, showcasing children and teenagers in the rodeo. The weeklong event includes miniature bareback riding, tie-down roping, breakaway roping, barrel racing, team roping and miniature bull riding.

Elaine Livran said she’s glad she came to Las Vegas to watch the Junior NFR and fulfill her holiday shopping list.

“This is a wonderful addition, especially for the families,” said Livran, an Oregonian. “I’ve been coming here for the last 13 years and I think it’s more grand this year. Families are able to involve their kids more because it has something for everyone, old and young.”

Besides browsing Western wares, attendees could attend autograph sessions featuring rodeo professionals

“This event has been awesome so far,” said Jana Day, who was visiting from Idaho. “We get to do some shopping and meet professional athletes, like Dale (Brisby), who was great to talk to.”

Brisby, a legendary bull rider, was all-smiles as he gave high fives and autographs.

“I’ve been here many times before and I always enjoy meeting everyone,” Brisby said. “It’s a fun event because there’s so much to do here and so many options for shopping. Plus, it’s also nice to be around like-minded people who share the same passion for rodeo as I do.”

Between vendors were Christmas trees and snowman figurines reminding Christmas gift hunters to pick up ornaments shaped like cowboy boots and Texas. Given all the shopping bags in hand, it seemed many people found it hard to leave Cowboy Christmas empty-handed.

Cowboy Christmas runs 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through Dec. 10 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, 3150 Paradise Road. Admission is free.

Contact Sandy Lopez at slopez@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4686. Follow @JournalismSandy on Twitter.

Another day, another win for Ryder Wright



What: Wrangler National Finals Rodeo

Where: Thomas & Mack Center

When: Dec. 1-10, 6:45 p.m.

Tickets: Mad Dash (general admission, seat not guaranteed) tickets available by calling Thomas & Mack box office at (702) 739-3267 or www.UNLVtickets.com


Ryder Wright extends saddle bronc win streak

There was no letup from Ryder Wright on the fourth day of competition at the National Finals Rodeo.

Wright won his fourth consecutive saddle bronc go-round on Sunday night at the Thomas & Mack Center.

The 18-year-old is competing in his first NFR and has gone from 14th place to second. He is now just about $1,000 behind leader Jacobs Crawley after winning $114,923.08 in four days.


Brothers Riley and Brady Minor took first in team roping at 4.40 seconds, a night after they tied for first.

Dustin Bird and Russell Cardoza, two of the leaders in all-around, took fifth while Junior Nogueira and his partner, Kaleb Driggers, had a no-time.

Bird and Cardoza hold the top two places in the all-around with Clayton Hass, Nogueira and Clay Smith rounding out the top five.

J.D. Struxness won the fourth steer wrestling go-round — also a day after he tied for first.

“Last night was the ice-breaker,” Struxness said. “The second round the nerves were still there and I was trying to look for my first round win. That didn’t happen and I stubbed my toe. After I got the Round 3 win, I got the momentum rolling and I need to keep it rolling.”

Marty Yates posted the first sub-7.0-second time of this year’s NFR in tie-down roping at 6.80 seconds to win the go-round while Jake Vold took first in bareback riding.

Michele McLeod turned in the fastest 2016 NFR time in the fourth barrel racing go-round at 13.49 seconds a night after finishing last.

Shane Proctor became the only bull rider to go 4-for-4 and finished fourth on the night while Brennon Eldred took first and world leader Sage Kimzey was bucked off to end the night.

Contact Betsy Helfand at bhelfand@reviewjournal.com. Follow on Twitter: @BetsyHelfand

After long journey, Pamela Capper rides into Las Vegas




Where: Thomas & Mack Center

When: 7 p.m. Monday


Tickets: Mad Dash (general admission, seat not guaranteed) tickets available by calling Thomas & Mack box office at (702) 739-3267 or www.UNLVtickets.com


Pamela Capper knew it was time.

Her mare, Jesse, was in her prime and her kids were grown.

There was nothing stopping her from pursuing her passion full time — except for her job.

So about two years ago, she quit her job as a school bus driver to pursue barrel racing on a more regular basis.

Capper qualified for her first National Finals Rodeo this year as a 53-year-old rookie, even winning the10-day event’s first go-round on Thursday.

“I was seeing how I was missing making the Finals because of the time I had to stay home for work and I knew (Jesse) wasn’t going to last forever,” Capper said. “They only have so many really good years and I just decided that I need to take full advantage of her time of racing, her years of racing.”

Capper competed while her kids were growing up, but she stayed mainly near her home in Cheney, Washington, outside of Spokane, competing in Washington, Idaho and Oregon.

She and Jesse, who she raised and trained, won the Columbia River Circuit five years in a row from 2011-15.

“That is quite a feat in itself which really encouraged me that I needed to get her out in the rest of the world,” Capper said.

Capper called Jesse a “natural,” between her mind, athleticism and speed, and started focusing more and more on running her.

Her three kids — one son and two daughters — are now in their mid-20s and early 30s and as they started to get older, Capper started venturing down south for some winter runs.

She’d ask for time off in the winter from time to time to go to rodeos and then would rodeo most weekends from April through November.

She turned in multiple top-25 years before finally breaking through this year.

With the job now behind her, Capper won the San Angelo (Texas) Stock Show and Rodeo in February to kick-start her year and clinched her spot in the NFR thanks to her performance in Pendleton, Oregon, in September.

She came into the NFR in 11th place and now, after four days, in which she won the first go-round, she is in 10th place with $123,735.52 in earnings.

The event might be daunting for some, but Capper has been trying to treat it like just another rodeo.

“We still need to go out there and run the pattern. I guess I haven’t let that this being the Finals change my thinking,” Capper said. “The only thing I have not experienced is running 10 days in a row. That marathon of 10 days, that will be when I start realizing it.”

But, of course, it’s not just another rodeo for the 53-year old and her mare.

After years of working toward a goal and having the confidence to make a difficult decision and pursue a dream, Capper and Jesse are finally where they set out to be.

“I finally just decided to take a leap of faith and do my rodeoing full-time as a career because that’s what my passion is — barrel racing and rodeos,” Capper said.

So far, it’s paid off.

Contact Betsy Helfand at bhelfand@reviewjournal.com. Follow on Twitter: 

Saddle Bronc riding is a family business



Having multiple members of the same family competing in the same event at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo is by no means unprecedented, and particularly in saddle broncs. The Brothers Etbauer — Billy, Robert and Dan — made plenty of hay over the years at the Thomas & Mack Center. And speaking of hay, how about Canadian greats Rod and Denny Hay?

But this year’s saddle bronc field is bordering the unprecedented. Of the 15 qualifiers, 10 are related to at least one other contestant. And not surprisingly, rodeo’s version of the Wright Brothers — and sons, and brother-in-law — has the most family ties this year, with six. Then you’ve got Cody and Heith DeMoss, and Jacobs and Sterling Crawley.

In this family affair, you have to start with Cody Wright, the two-time world champion competing in his 13th Wrangler NFR. At 39, he’s the oldest of the bunch, joined this year by brothers Jake and Jesse, sons Rusty and first-timer Ryder, and brother-in-law CoBurn Bradshaw, who is married to Cody’s sister Rebecca.

Yes, during the 10 days of the Wrangler NFR, the population of Milford, Utah, definitely drops a bit. For the Wrights, it’s on the brink of becoming “Seven Rides for Seven Brothers,” which could definitely happen — Spencer, another of Cody’s brothers, made it to the NFR each of the last two years, winning the world championship in 2014.

“I think it’s pretty interesting,” said Cody, who entered the 10-day event 11th in the world standings. “I’m not surprised, just for the simple fact that one rider kind of gets you started, it’s the way you’ve all been raised, and then the next one in line starts to be successful. It definitely shows them it’s possible. They start thinking, ‘If he can do it, I can do it.’”

Cody first reached the NFR in 2003, launching a stretch of 12 consecutive years qualifying to ride in Vegas. He snared his first world championship in 2008, then added another gold buckle in 2010. Jesse brought another world title to the family in 2012, Spencer snared the aforementioned crown in 2014, and every year, one Wright or another seems to be in contention. While Cody got it all going, the eldest sibling/father stakes no claim to anyone else’s success.

“I’m not ever gonna take credit,” he said. “I’m not gonna stand here and tell you I’m the reason for all of this. They all worked hard and got there. But it’s definitely fun to be part of it, and to have something in common with them. We eat it, breathe it, sleep it, drink it. They’re all good at what they do. I don’t think a day goes by that they’re not doing something to work toward it.”

Cody gets another burst of fatherly pride this year. Rusty qualified for the NFR for the first time last year and finished the season a very respectable third in the world standings. Now, Ryder has made it to his first NFR.

“It’s gonna be neat,” Cody said. “I think there are big things in store for him if he just does what he does all year. It’ll be a good time in Vegas. He’ll love it.”


Ryder indeed had good things in store for him, busting out of the chute and winning the first four go-rounds of his first Wrangler NFR. Yet he’s not even old enough to have a celebratory drink, unless it’s a Coke. The 18-year-old is only six months removed from his graduation out of Milford High School. He sneaked into the top 15 to make it to the Thomas & Mack, finishing 14th in the regular-season standings.

“It got pretty tight there at the end, but I was able to pull through,” said Ryder, who has vaulted to second in the world on the strength of his first four NFR rides. “I really wanted to make it here my rookie year. It’s awesome. I’ve been working toward this all year.”

Just four years ago, it looked as if Ryder wouldn’t be taking a job in what’s become the family business — though he would be in rodeo. He didn’t start riding broncs until ninth grade.


“I rode bulls before that, since I was in sixth grade,” said Ryder, who showed a willingness to get tossed about on an untamed beast at a time when most kids were trying to figure out how to survive math class. “I thought riding bulls was what I always wanted to do. I was really scared of the first horse I got on. But after I got on, I haven’t looked back since.”

And as much as his dad is proud of him, Ryder is ecstatic to be competing with his father — not against, mind you, as all the Wrights believe the competition is against the horse — on the huge stage of the NFR.

“Not very many people can say they rode bucking horses with their dad,” Ryder said, while noting he’s got a crowd of qualified helpers. “I have the best coaches in the world, with my uncles, my brother and my dad. You couldn’t ask for any better.”

Ryder has watched the Wrangler NFR from the stands ever since dad made his first trip here in 2003. Now he’s down on the dirt himself.

“I always wanted to be down there, and it’s become a reality. I’m pretty excited. I can barely explain it.”


CoBurn Bradshaw was already on his way to becoming a great saddle bronc rider back in 2011, when he took second to Shade Etbauer (there’s another Etbauer!) in the National High School Finals Rodeo. He took second again in 2012 to good buddy Rusty Wright, then finished third in 2013, with Rusty winning the title again.

Success on the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association tour seemed assured. But he understands how some may have thought he was hitching a ride on the Wright success wagon when, in August 2013, he married Rebecca Wright, sister of Cody, Jesse, Jake and Spencer.

“I didn’t want people to think that was the reason I married her,” Bradshaw said with a laugh. “I didn’t want it to look like that, but that’s kind of how it looked.”

The truth is a longer story that includes Rusty trying to find Rebecca what he deemed a suitable prom date back in high school. The rest, as they say, is history. Bradshaw married Rebecca for all the right reasons – not the Wright reasons — and now has two kids, including Lafe Norman Bradshaw, just a month and a half old.

But he freely admits there are a lot of perks to hanging out with a family full of successful bronc riders.

“People ask, ‘Don’t you guys ever get tired of each other?’ But it’s pretty cool how much support you’ve got,” Bradshaw. “There’s never a shortage of hands. They’re a great family to be part of, and if I need help, I’ve got many people to turn to.”

One might think he has a lot to live up to, as well, with all those gold buckles his brothers-in-law have racked up. Bradshaw insists that’s not the case.

“I never saw it that way,” Bradshaw said. “I think it’s just awesome to be part of it. I know they’ve helped my career — I ride better, and they’ve helped sponsorship-wise and with exposure. I think I’m luckier than anybody in rodeo. I’m traveling with my family and my best friends, and a lot of people don’t get to do that.”

Last year, in his first WNFR, Bradshaw racked up more than $163,000 over the 10 days to finish the season with winnings of nearly $230,000, good for fourth in the world standings. He entered the 2016 WNFR second in the world, and he likes his chances this week — and the chances of all his relatives.

“If I’m a betting man, the more people you have in there, six out of 15 odds, that’s pretty good,” he said. “I hope one of us wins it, and I think one of us will. The odds are with us. I’d love to have one gold buckle, but I think it’s awesome if any of us win it. It doesn’t matter which one.”


Jacobs Crawley is on a six-year streak of qualifying for the WNFR. Last year was definitely the high-water mark, as the 28-year-old cowboy from Ennis, Texas, left Las Vegas with his first world championship, earning $167,382 over the 10-day event to finish the season with $276,247. He won the NFR average title — a feat he also accomplished in 2013 — which was key to him snaring the gold buckle.

Younger brother Sterling Crawley reached the WNFR in 2012 and 2013, and after missing out in 2014 and ’15, he’s back in the saddle with his brother at the big show of rodeo.

Jacobs said while it may be unique to have so many riders in this year’s field related to at least one other competitor, he understands how it can happen.

“A lot about bronc riding is technique, setting up saddles, things like that,” said Jacobs, who led the world standings entering this year’s NFR and was still in first heading into Sunday night. “It seems like once one relative figures something out, he tells everybody else. My brother has done that with me, and I’m sure that’s been the case with the DeMoss brothers and the Wrights. You kind of have a live-in coach.

“It’s that old saying, ‘You are who your friends are.’ If you’re running around with winners, you just pick up on that personality.”

That would appear to be the case with Sterling, 25, who finished the regular season 12th in the world standings, making for a very proud big brother.

“Me being the older brother, the tendency is to want to mentor the younger brother,” Jacobs said. “Our styles are different, but the work ethic, discipline and drive to win are there. If you see those traits, it gets to be contagious.”

And it’s surely been a two-way street, with younger brother providing key advice, as well.

“Sterling has seen me ride saddle bronc more than anyone,” Jacobs said. “He’s the little voice in the back of my head, the coach who knows your style as good as you do. If I’m questioning anything, or even if I get kind of down on myself — saying ‘Son of a gun, I’m getting tired,’ or whatever — he just has a reassuring word.

“He’ll say, ‘This is what happened, this is what you did, and this is what you need to do next time. He’ll point things out, but be supportive.”

It’s that kind of brotherly support that made Jacobs eager to help Sterling return to Las Vegas.

“It’s been my biggest goal all year – do everything I can to help Sterling and get him back to the NFR,” he said. “We’ve been here twice before together, and missing the last couple was rough for him. It’s gonna be really fun having him in the locker room again.”


Speaking of fun, who’s happier than Heith DeMoss? Reached on his cellphone as he was just embarking on the trip from his home of Heflin, La., to Las Vegas for the Wrangler NFR, he sure didn’t sound like most of us would if we were staring down a 1,400-mile road trip.

Rather, he was excited about the drive, and even more so to again be competing with his brother as part of the WNFR saddle bronc field — and with all those Wright boys and Bradshaw and the Crawleys.

“I think it’s pretty dad-gum phenomenal,” said Heith, here for his eighth WNFR overall and seventh alongside older brother Cody DeMoss. “For me personally, to be in it is a dream come true to be there with my brother. It’s kind of along the lines of the Etbauer brothers. Three of them made it, and that was unheard of back then — the Etbauer dynasty. They were super famous, and they’re my heroes.

“It’s super crazy that there’s that many people related to other people in the saddle bronc field. It’s definitely wild.”

Heith’s top finish in the world standings was fourth in 2014, bolstered by an NFR in which he won the eighth go-round and cashed in five other go-rounds. Cody, meanwhile, is a 12-time NFR qualifier who has been a whisker away from the gold buckle many times. He finished second in the world five times — including less than $800 behind Jesse Wright in 2012 — while carving out one of the most successful and consistent saddle bronc careers in PRCA history.

So Heith relishes in not only his own success, but that of brother Cody, nicknamed “Hot Sauce” in a hat tip to his Louisiana roots and affinity for pouring hot sauce on everything he ate back in college.

“I’ve been in this game a long time, and still, whenever you sit back and see what’s happened, it doesn’t seem real,” said Heith, who qualified in sixth this year, with Cody right behind in seventh. “Just to get there is a major feat. I’ve been there eight times, and I’m blessed to do that. To be there with my brother is just icing on the cake.”

And Heith doesn’t even mind joining all those other family ties who fill up two-thirds of the 2016 field.

“For real, we’re all friends,” he said. “I’m looking forward to getting a picture with all of us brothers there” — and sons, and brothers-in-law, etc. — “and then hanging it on the wall. That’ll be a memory. We’re all good buds.”