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NFR stars join Wayne Newton, other Vegas celebs for special shoot

Updated May 17, 2023 - 9:58 am

You always learn something during a Las Vegas Events photo shoot. Walter T. Airdale is bald, for instance.

Airdale is Terry Fator’s country-bumpkin dummy — sorry, figure — who wears a cowboy hat during Fator’s show at New York-New York. But on Tuesday afternoon, he shed the Stetson for a time to show off his bald dome. Maybe he was planning to audition for Blue Man Group.

Fator and his sidekick were among a couple dozen Las Vegas entertainers, dignitaries and community members assembled for a photo shoot at Pearl at the Palms. The oddly famous gathering was on hand to pose with eight PRCA champions to generate buzz for December’s Wrangler National Finals Rodeo at the Thomas & Mack Center.

The campaign has been dubbed, “You Never Know Who You’ll Meet in December.” The concept taps into the strata and range of Las Vegas entertainers, dignitaries, elected officials, not just during the annual NFR, but year-round in VegasVille.

Those who took part: Mayor Carolyn Goodman, Wayne Newton, Penn & Teller, three in-character Blue Men, Vegas Golden Knights front-office exec and alum Deryk Engelland, UNLV volleyball coach Malia Shoji, UNLV Athletic Director Erick Harper, a couple of Chippendales, cast members from Cirque du Soleil’s “Ka,” reigning Miss Rodeo America Kennadee Riggs, and yours truly (whose column is a literary rodeo, so yee-haw)!

The event happened to land on Newton’s 64th anniversary of performing in Vegas, and on the day he extended his run at Flamingo into December. Newton is a horseman, of course, owner of dozens of Arabians and a frequent NFR attendee.

“They’ve talked about taking it out of Las Vegas, but I can’t see it,” Newton said prior to the shoot. “It belongs here.”

All current PRCA champs were in the mix, as part of a two-day swing through town: Stetson Wright (all-around, bull riding), Jess Pope (bareback), Tyler Waguespack (steer wrestling) Kaleb Driggers, (team roping, header), Junior Nogueira (team roping, heeler), Zeke Thurston, (saddle bronc), Caleb Smidt (tie-down roper) and Hailey Kinsel (barrel racer).

A 30-second video clip of the shoot will appear on such PRCA niche platforms as The Cowboy Channel beginning in mid-June. The final, “Sgt. Pepper’s”-styled group photo will post to NFRExperience.com as part of the NFR’s ongoing promotional effort.

More than 80 country-themed shows played during last year’s NFR, and that’s not including superstar resident headliners. The cast who came together Tuesday shows there’s more, much more, to the Vegas NFR experience.

“We all know about the country acts, but there is so much more going on in Las Vegas during the National Finals Rodeo,” said Las Vegas Events Vice President of Marketing Michael Mack, who envisioned the campaign. “A lot of these entertainers cater to the cowboy culture. When you look around and see them mingling with Wayne, Penn and Teller, the Blue Men and Cirque, you have to love it.”

Celebrate more in ‘24

Kool & The Gang is the latest resident headliner announced at Westgate’s International Theater. The still-blazing R&B band is performing a yearlong, extended residency running Oct. 5-7 through Oct-4-5. The 2024 dates are Feb. 9-10, May 24-25 and Aug. 2-3. Pre-sale begins Wednesday, with general-public sales beginning Friday. Go to ticketmaster.com, westgatelasvegas.com or the WOW Rewards center just off the casino floor.

The Westgate has figured its formula at International, which is to simply double-down on acts that have scored at the box office over single weekends. Kool & The Gang, led by co-founder Robert “Kool” Bell has been a hit in the room since filling up consecutive nights in February 2022.

Bell was prophetic in the week leading to those shows.

“We hope to share a residency with Barry Manilow, who has had so much success in that room,” Bell said. “So this is like a trial, of sorts. That’s what this is all about.”

And, just last week, Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons announced their residency at Westgate opening Oct. 26-27. This booking with veteran concert promoter Danny Zelisko also expands an act’s drawing power, as Valli sold out two shows in March. He’s 89, with a promising future in the biz.

Retro ’80s action

The Psychedelic Furs and Squeeze are teaming on a fall U.S. tour, stopping at Pearl at the Palms on Oct. 14. Tickets go on sale 10 a.m. Friday at ticketmaster.com.

Favorite from the Psychedelic Furs: “Heartbreak Beat.” Favorite from Squeeze: “Hourglass.” Fight me.

What Works In Vegas

The kitschy variety show “WOW” at the Rio, which celebrates its 2,000th show this week. Seriously. It seems like only last night, or maybe Friday night, the show premiered in Vegas after hitting big in Israel. But “WOW” in fact opened in October 2017, where “Rock of Ages,” “Duck Commander Musical,” and Prince once performed.

The troupe is led by indefatigable producer Hanoch Rosenn. The former prime-time mimehas also scored with the circus-adult revue “Rouge” at The Strat, and cratered with the circus-family revue “Extravaganza” at what is now Horseshoe Las Vegas.

Cool Hang Alert

We’re psyched — psyched, I tell you! — for Todd Kerns and Friends on Friday night at Count’s Vamp’d Rock Bar & Grill. Kerns is a veteran rocker, with stints in Raiding the Rock Vault and Slash ft. Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators. Velvet Chains is special guest, and comic Courtney Cronin Dold hosts. Doors are at 8:30 p.m., cover is $5 at the door, a mere pittance.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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