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Of boots and buckles

You know it’s December in Las Vegas from the sea of broad-brimmed felt, the clomping of dogging heels and glint of neon off of shining buckles. The 52nd National Finals Rodeo is in town through Sunday.

It’s been a mutually satisfactory arrangement for 25 years, and it’s contracted to continue here through 2014.

For Las Vegas, it means more than $50 million in nongaming revenue alone during a time of year when the city used to nearly shut down. For the cowboys and their fans, it means reasonable air fares, countless choices of hotel rooms at rates from top-dollar to cheap, a chance to party with the top country entertainers and take a chance at the tables and slots.

For the cowboys themselves, there is nearly $6 million in total purses. Trevor Brazile of Decatur, Texas, wrapped up the all-around world championship title on the second night.

True, the host Thomas & Mack Center is showing its age and at 17,000 seats doesn’t have the capacity of some of the huge new stadiums around the country that clearly covet the rodeo. Perhaps another venue will offer a tempting bid to the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and Women’s Professional Rodeo Association.

But will those cities be able to offer rodeo fans the ability to stay out till dawn and enjoy a different country music and country comic performance every night? Wynn Las Vegas is not a tour stop for Garth Brooks’ smash one-man show — the superstar is an only-in-Vegas act. And Monday’s inaugural American Country Awards show at the MGM Grand was made for the entertainment capital of the world.

Tonight there’ll be another go-round, another round of drinks and more talk of the cowboy who could’ve been richer if he’d only held on for those eight seconds.

Enjoy the party and hope it lasts — for all of us.

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