Saddle up, hold tight and take the ride of your life

It was Helen and Vernon McVicar’s daughter Brittany, a third-generation rodeoer, who inspired her parents to attend the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas last year.

When Brittany came home from the 2012 Wrangler NFR loaded up with all the latest cowboy gear, clothing and enthusing about the good times she’d had, Helen and Vernon immediately contacted Gay at Travel Diversity. “Gay organised the whole trip for us,” Helen said.“She’s really on the ball. She had everything arranged from about February. She’s an amazing lady and very good at her job. We didn’t have to do anything.” Although Vernon has retired from rodeoing these days, Helen and daughter Brittany still compete and love the sport that’s part of their DNA. Both Helen and Vernon’s parents were also competitive in the rodeo arena. Attending the Wrangler NFR in Las Vegas was the ultimate for this rodeoing husband and wife – and their memories of that trip will last a lifetime – or at least until they go back again!

They flew out on November 29 and stayed at Harrah’s in the middle of the strip at Las Vegas. As they had a hire car, they were able to take day trips to places within the region – to Hoover Dam, Red Rock and to casinos on the outskirts of Vegas. They went somewhere different every day – to shopping centres, factory outlets, and of course, Walmart, which is always an eye-opener for every Aussie.

Then the 10-day rodeo started and they had tickets to seven nights of the action. To make it even more special, a friend of theirs was competing in the barrel races so they had great seats down the front to cheer on their mate. Even the nights they didn’t have tickets to the rodeo, they could still enjoy all the action on big screens in one of the many casinos – with drinks and hors d’oeuvres served to your table.

While the night times were jam-packed with all the excitement, thrills, spills and entertainment associated with the Wrangler NFR, every other waking moment was filled with activity. “You don’t get much sleep but it doesn’t bother you,” Helen said. “Nothing really opens until 10 the next morning anyway. “I was frightened I’d miss something, so we got into everything going.”

One of the absolute highlights – apart from the arena action at the Wrangler NFR – was the Cowboy Christmas Gift Show, which opened from 10am to 5pm daily at the Las Vegas Convention Centre.  It’s the longest-running and only “original” gift show of the Wrangler NFR with more than 300,000 square feet of show floor hosting 400-plus vendors from across the United States and Canada. Each vendor showcased their unique products including custom jewellery, western wear, boots and spurs, furniture, original art, handmade crafts and pottery, and of course, the official Wrangler NFR and PRCA merchandise.

“It’s so big, it takes you days to get around and see everything, and then, you probably don’t cover the whole place,” Helen said. “We went every day and there’s a free shuttle that takes you where you want to go.”

While in Las Vegas, Helen and Vernon saw Shania Twain and Gretchen Wilson at a casino on the old strip and Shania even popped up at the rodeo finals one night, as did Arnie Schwarzenegger! The McVicars thoroughly recommend the trip to anyone – even if they’re not into rodeoing – as there’s so much to see and enjoy in America’s gambling capital.

“While we compete in rodeos here in Australia, over there the money is amazing,” Helen said. “The top cowboys and cowgirls do it for a living, travelling from one rodeo to another as there’s so much more money in it for them.” And speaking of money – Helen has a tip for any traveller going over to Vegas.

“It pays to tip. It gets you more places and better service – it really does,” she said.

And Helen’s last word on the trip? “It’s really good to go over there and see it live,” she said. “You can sit in your loungeroom and watch it on video, but to be there to see it in real life is so much better. “The rodeo people over there are just like us – they’re friendly and they come up and meet you, even though some of them have a huge following like rock stars. People will line up for hours just to get an autograph or a photo taken with them.”

Whether you are travelling solo, as a couple, or a small or large group, take advantage of the expertise of Gay and the team at Travel Diversity Tamworth, who will take all the worry out of arranging your dream trip.

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