WACO, TX — The National Finals Rodeo is back where it all began - Texas.
The Wrangler National Finals Rodeo normally takes place in Las Vegas, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, the rodeo was forced to find a new venue.
This year's 2020 NFR is taking place at Globe Life Field, with events in Arlington and Forth Worth from Dec. 3 through Dec. 12.
A welcome letter from the Mayors of Arlington and Forth Worth outlined the announcement.
"Our host venues, Arlington and Forth, Visit Fort Worth, the Arlington Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Arlington Sports Commission and the Forth Worth Sports commission are implementing numerous precautionary public health measure to help provide for a safe and enjoyable visit for NFR fans across the country," an excerpt of the letter reads.
Despite the venue change, some residents in the Central Texas business community have said they've already seen an economic boost from NFR's presence in the Lone Star State.
Adam Harris is the manager of Cavender's Boot City in Waco. He says they usually see an uptick in customers, even when the NFR is held in Vegas.
"It's pretty much the Super Bowl of rodeos," Harris said. "We're getting a lot of guests coming in that are traveling to the NFR. They're coming in and getting boots, hats, jeans, to be outfitted for the rodeo."
For vendors and shoppers, Cowboy Christmas is perhaps the biggest draw. The ten-day gift and shopping extension of the NFR experience provides an opportunity to connect buyers and sellers.
Tabitha Marsh Story is the owner of TwoForty4 Boutique in Mexia, TX. Last year, she traveled to Las Vegas for the NFR, and the venue change this year is a more convenient drive.
"I'm just happy to be here, to be honest," she said. "It's super convenient. I can drive back and forth to home and not have to pay to stay."
According to the Vice President of Marketing for Las Vegas Events, Michael Mack, Cowboy Christmas is an essential part of the NFR experience. It's been the official gift show of the event going back to 1986.
"So it's been an essential part of the entire NFR experience in Las Vegas," Mack said. "So this year, when the PRCA decided because of safety measures to move the NFR to Arlington, it seemed like a natural extension to potentially take Cowboy Christmas with it."
According to Mack, extensive work ensured the proper COVID-19 safety measures were in place to hold the event
"There are one-way aisles and lots of hand sanitation stations. There are temperature checks upon entry and social distancing," he said. "We worked the deal with the Fort Worth Convention Center, and kudos to that group and everything for helping us put that together."
Las Vegas Events, Show Management, and the Forth Worth Convention Center have adopted a strict set of guidelines due to the COVID-19 pandemic. You can view any updates to these requirements and other links with information regarding City, County, State, and Federal regulations here.
For our attendees:
- All attendees, ten years of age or older, will be required to wear a face mask and/or a face covering at all times.
- All attendees, ten years of age or older, will be required to have their temperature checked before entering the Convention Center.
- Social distancing will be enforced within the Convention Center and will be enforced within each exhibitor’s booth.
Our exhibitors will follow these protocols to ensure the safety of all staff and attendees: •
- All exhibitors will be required to have hand sanitizer available in their booth for use by attendees and exhibitor’s staff.
- All exhibitors will be required to frequently clean and disinfect within their booth. This includes high touch points, seating, displays and any other high traffic areas.
- All exhibitors must notify Show Management immediately if they test positive for COVID-19 or come in close contact with an individual who test positive for COVID-19, during move-in, show dates or move-out.
Mack says Cowboy Christmas brings more than 220 exhibitors together where visitors can experience something that caters to the western lifestyle, and the economic impact it's already had for some business owners is understandable.
"You know, the economic driver from the sense of what it does for those 220 exhibitors, and how important it is at this time of year," Mack explained. "But also, it drives people to the Forth Worth Convention Center, fills hotels and certainly those folks will want to, you know, eat at the restaurants and hang out as well."
Salado businessman Randy Bloomer of Bloomer Trailers, the official trailer of the PRCA and WNFR. is well known in the rodeo community. He's been regular at NFR for years.
"It's quite a difference. This is our 27th year at NFR, and 26 have been in Vegas," Bloomer said. "So it's quite a change."
Although he won't admit, Bloomer is somewhat of a celebrity in the Central Texas community. Bloomers Trailers' quality ultimately sparked the fire that landed Bloomer a small role in the hit TV show Yellowstone. This year Bloomer is co-branding his display with Yellowstone.
"When they ask you to co-brand a show like that, you say yes," Bloomer said. "So that's what we're doing with them this year."
While visibly different, Bloomer says the enthusiasm for the NFR in Texas has been as good as its always been.
"It's the first day, and the crowds are unbelievable," he explained. "But we are in Texas, so come on. This is home, right?"
For a detailed list of 2020 NFR events and COVID-19 safety requirements and protocol, visit here.