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Cowboy Christmas brings the crowds to Convention Center

Updated December 2, 2022 - 8:14 pm

Cowboy Christmas has always been a good place to do business for Rick and Diane Bishop, owner of cowboy hat and accessory company Western Tradition in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Despite inflation and supply chain disruptions impacting the industry, they expect much of the same enthusiasm at this year’s show.

“Last year was gangbusters,” Rick Bishop said. “We expect it to be just as good. Western is really hot right now because of all the shows, like (Paramount’s) ‘Yellowstone.’”

Cowboy Christmas, the Western-themed gift show that’s a companion to the National Finals Rodeo, started Thursday and rodeo-goers and shoppers were eager to peruse the 357 exhibitor booths at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Visitors tested shaded lounge chairs, inspected silver and turquoise jewelry, viewed Western and Americana oil paintings and bronze sculptures and wandered aisles featuring dozens of cowboy boots.

Beyond shopping, guests could attend the YETI Junior World Finals on the second floor of the South Hall, watch live panels and concerts at stages throughout the venue and get autographs from rodeo contestants.

New this year was the “Cowboy Christmas Village,” a festive area that includes photo ops and daily appearances from Santa Claus.

“It’s almost an indescribable experience because of the quality of shopping, the interactivity with our live stage and then we have different interactive programming going on everywhere. It’s definitely an experience, especially for locals,” said Pat Christenson, president of the hosting company Las Vegas Events.

Vendors said Thursday that they felt confident this year’s show would be successful. Last year, brought a strong demand from customers after a year hiatus in 2020 because of the pandemic.

Dallas-resident Sandy Miner said her family-run business, Swings N’ Solar, expects a good turn out for its patio products since the booth sits on a major thoroughfare.

“We have a ton of return customers, people that have five or six of these,” Miner said. “It’ll be a good show. We had a great show last year, and I think it’ll be more (this year).”

The South Hall’s second floor also hosted the co-located RMEF Hunter & Outdoor Christmas Expo, featuring outdoor and hunting-related products. Near the center of the floor sat the Kalispell, Montana-based Rocky Mountain Art Factory, where artist John Pettis was working on a life-sized sculpture of Shoshone Chief Washakie on horseback.

Scott Rand, Pettis’ business partner, said the piece was commissioned by the North Summit School District in Coalville, Utah. The pair met district officials at last year’s show and made a bid to take on the project.

“This is our only show,” Rand said. “We actually get enough business out of this, because (of) all of the other great craftsmen and the other people that come from all over the world. We get enough generated out of this that the two of us stay busy and feed our families.”

Cowboy Christmas is free and open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. until Dec. 10. And a free, one-way shuttle service runs rodeo attendees to the Thomas & Mack Center each night.

McKenna Ross is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Contact her at mross@reviewjournal.com. Follow @mckenna_ross_ on Twitter.

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