The Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, coming up in Las Vegas December 3 – 12, 2015, is the culmination of a yearlong struggle on the wide-open rodeo road. Professional cowboys and cowgirls have vied for a coveted spot in the top 15 of their respective events so they can take their place in the Thomas & Mack Center arena for 10 nights of rodeo action, battling on dirt for a chunk of an unprecedented $10 million in prize money and a chance to be crowned world champion.
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Wrangler National Finals Rodeo live – stream TV is CBS sports Network . NFR live streaming 2015 will broadcast and Update from here. The NFR is held each year in the first full week of December, at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. (UNLV) and is aired live on CBS Sports Network. Cowboy Christmas, a cowboy gift show, is held concurrent with the rodeo at the Las Vegas Convention Center.Thurston, however, has as much big event experience as any of the veterans in Vegas this week. He has several years of performing as a trick roper with his brothers in front of thousands.
“Most Indian kids grew up riding horses,” says bareback rider Buck Lunak, a 2014 Indian National Finals Rodeo (INFR) world champion. “We’ve always been great horsemen who grew up with a cowboy way of life.”
One of her four sons was diagnosed with cancer at 10 years old, another had a life-threatening bout with meningitis at 18 months old, and Hunter’s daughter-in-law has had three open-heart surgeries and is awaiting a heart transplant.
“Look around and you can always find someone in a worse situation,” said Hunter, who lives in Neola, Utah.
Hunter probably won’t win a gold buckle here, but she hopes to make the Thomas & Mack glitter like gold in today’s third round to help raise awareness for childhood cancer.
Hunter is urging fans to wear gold and donate to the cause (NFR Glitter Like Gold Facebook page). She’ll wear a custom-made hat and shirt that will be auctioned off, with proceeds going to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital (stjude.org) and Huntsman Cancer Institute (huntsmancancer.org).
“My horse might need goggles I’ll have so much gold on,” Hunter said. “I just wanted to bring awareness. There’s not enough funding for research and research is really the key to finding a cure to saving the kids and that’s the whole point.”
Hunter’s son, Kolton, who survived his battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and is now 26, will paint his handprint on her horse, Fuzz, and Hunter also plans to have her 4-year-old grandson put a gold handprint on her horse for a young cancer patient and rodeo fan she befriended.
Hunter also has been handing out gold ribbons that signify childhood cancer awareness that will be worn by athletes and animals alike.
Cindy Rosser, whose family puts on rodeos in California and raises bucking horses and bulls, lost her teenage son, Mikel Moreno, to leukemia. She’s planning to put one of Hunter’s gold ribbons on the flank of her bull, Wolf Deer.
“It fries me that we can live with AIDS now and there’s a vaccine for Ebola but the treatment Mikel was on was 20 years old. It had not been tweaked in 20 years. What are we doing?” Rosser said. “I’m just on board because I think, ‘Are they doing enough? Are we really trying?’ You hear about stuff overseas. It just frustrates me.
The timing couldn’t be better, with this WNFR marking the first under a new 10-year contract that has brought a hefty bump in prize money. When all is said and done after 10 days on the Thomas & Mack dirt, $8.8 million will be doled out — which means more than $1 million is on the table among the 15 contestants in each event.
“There’s so much money up for grabs that the guy in 15th, he’s got just as good a chance of winning,” Margie said, recognizing that Cody starting first isn’t necessarily an advantage. “A lot of things come into play. It’s mind-boggling out there. And there isn’t a whole lot I can tell him. He’s been doing this for 15 years. The only thing I can do is encourage him as much as I can.
“But Cody doesn’t go into it thinking about the money. He just goes into it to ride. It’s just him and his horse.”
The pressure situations have been there since I was just little, so I think that’s really helped me with my rodeo career, just learning how to deal with that. To me it’s not as big a deal as it might be some young kid that’s never been in front of crowds like that.”
Plus, Thurston is coming into the WNFR off an absolute dream season for any saddle bronc competitor, let alone one who is considered a rookie on the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. He won two massive rodeo titles — Houston in March, which came with a $50,000 bonus, and the Calgary Stampede in July, which came with a $100,000 bonus. And they didn’t even count in getting him to Vegas.
“Those were some pretty big wins for sure,” he agreed. “Those weren’t PRCA rodeos. PRCA rodeos, I had some pretty big wins there too I guess. I won Prescott (Arizona) over the (July) 4th, Oakley (Utah on the same weekend) … Tucson (Arizona in February) — I set an arena record in Tucson. I won Rocky Mountain House, Strathmore, Hermiston (Oregon in August).
That said, his money-earning ability speaks for itself. DeMoss’ career winnings entering the 2015 WNFR were just shy of $1.9 million, meaning a good run over the next week could get him to the $2 million mark. Indeed, there are countless cowboys who would trade their careers for Cody’s in a heartbeat.
“Oh, gosh yeah, for sure,” Margie said. “There’s a bunch of guys that would absolutely love to be in his spot. I don’t take that for granted.”
Nor does she take for granted all those second-place finishes, saying those efforts show a lot more than people may think.