Get Ready for a Shopping Go-Round

Activities more rugged than Christmas shopping usually are associated with the National Finals Rodeo. But cowboys enjoy saving a buck as much as shooting one.

About 140,000 visitors are expected to shuttle among three Western-themed gift shows before they close on Saturday: Cowboy Christmas at the Las Vegas Convention Center, Country Christmas at the Sands Expo and Cowboy Marketplace at Mandalay Bay.

Not unlike most gift shows, they feature art, clothing and jewelry. Where they differ are the guns, saddles and branding irons.

"We're trying to incorporate anything you could possibly want for not only locals, but anyone who comes into town to experience Vegas with a rodeo flair," says Cowboy Christmas show manager Anne Aznarez of Las Vegas Events.

Prices range from $10 belt buckles to, at Cowboy Christmas, a $400,000 Bloomer short-wall trailer.

"There's one or two people who come to the rodeo who can swing it," says Courtney Higgins, salesman for Rodeo Rigs of Hammond, Mont., who nods and smiles when asked if he knows exactly who those people are.

If your Wrangler jeans' pockets don't run quite so deep, there's the cowgirl's wedding band at Country Christmas. Handcrafted by Reads Jewelers of Santo, Texas, in platinum, 18-karat gold or pure silver, it comes with a four-carat diamond and a price tag of $26,500.

Far less elegant -- and costly -- is a $44 cow-pie clock from Springfield, Utah's Kreations by Kristin, found at Cowboy Christmas. ("Crap on your friends!" the signage reads.)

Each show features between 390-480 vendors, about the same as before the recession, according to show organizers.

"The horse industry may be hurting a little bit and be down somewhat," says Chris Woodruff, producer of both Country Christmas and Cowboy Marketplace. "But this is the National Finals Rodeo, and they don't make any money if they're not here."

No decline in customers is anticipated, either.

"When times are down, it doesn't really seem to show with the Western demographic," Aznarez says. "They pay with cash. They plan for this all year long."

Woodruff calls Christmas shopping a "cowboy tradition" that's as rugged as "checking a fence in the mountains of Colorado to make sure your cattle don't get out."

"Those aisles are long," he explains.

Contact reporter Corey Levitan at clevitan@reviewjournal. com or 702-383-0456.