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NFR fans focus on fringe, tassels and feathers

A version of this story was originally published on Dec. 16, 2016.

For those who aren’t competing in the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, fashion comes first. It’s an opportunity to showcase original and one-of-a-kind designs, and many fans turn out for the event dressed to the nines. Ladies accessorized with sequins, fur and lots of leather. Gentlemen preferred simple cowboy hats, often sprucing up their outfits with hand-tooled leather boots and elaborately embroidered shirts. Here’s a sampling of the wild Western chic at NFR, which bills itself as the world’s largest and most prestigious rodeo.

Name: Beth Mathis

Age: 50

From: Manhattan, Illinois

Her husband had her boots custom-made in Fort Worth; it’s a struggle for her to find boots that fit her unusually wide feet. Though she didn’t know it at the time, the boots were designed by art dealer Ron Hall, author of the New York Times bestselling novel “Same Kind of Different As Me.”

Name: Mary Novak

Age: 72

From: Fall River Mills, California

Novak, who attended the rodeo with her twins sons and two grandchildren, wears what she calls a “cowgirl collar”: a handmade leather poncho with intricate beading and fringe that took her two months to create. A former rancher, she’s been crafting and making leather items her entire life.

Name: Logan Martin

Age: 49

From: Fall River Mills, California

Mary Novak’s son inherited her creative gene. Perched in his cowboy hat’s headband is a feather he created from sheet metal, then painted. Martin makes his living as a blacksmith. “They’re making a comeback!” he exclaims.

Name: Charlie and Sandy Bush

Age: 65 and 66

From: San Antonio, Texas

The Bushes have been coming to the rodeo for the past 20 years. Both worked in San Antonio for AT&T for many years. Sandy created their matching outfits, including her skirt and his shirt, as well as several other matching outfits they will wear throughout the event. At right, Sandy displays some of the turquoise rings she has collected over the past 43 years. She bought her belt buckle from Gold & Silver Pawn in downtown Las Vegas.

Name: Alexis Minch

Age: 24

From: Gering, Nebraska

Minch’s friend from the Nebraska Technical College of Agriculture custom-made her leather purse, which features her fiance’s name, Orin Larsen, and rodeo number. Minch attended the rodeo with her mother to cheer on her fiance as he competed in bareback riding. “Tonight’s his night!” Minch’s mother says.

Name: Shelly Weppler

Age: 60

From: Minot, North Dakota

Weppler purchased her fringed and tasseled poncho at Cowboy Christmas last year. When she saw designer Pat Dahnke wearing the poncho, she knew she had to have it.

Name: Greg McKinney

Age: 56

From: Tulsa, Oklahoma

McKinney works as an assets manager in Tulsa, and he purchased his shirt in Scottsdale. The shirt features a skull and the number 13, and he picked it out to match his boots. His wife, Kelly, sports identical boots.

Name: Kathy T.

Age: 51

From: Firestone, Colorado

Kathy works for Wrangler. Her flowing, leopard print pants are made by Wrangler, and her belt was custom-designed for her by friends. She has been coming to the NFR for 27 years. “It’s like a reunion for us!” she says of the community the sport fosters.

Name: Ali Sherman

Age: 37

From: Las Vegas

Sherman’s hat is borrowed from a friend, and added to her limited selection of rodeo-appropriate garb. “We got tickets at the last minute,” she says. Sherman is an instructor at LifeTime Fitness.

Name: Jessica Thomas

Age: 29

From: Tulsa, Oklahoma

It’s not Thomas’ first National Finals Rodeo (it’s her second). The highlight of her outfit is her large, triangular copper earrings. Thomas creates jewelry, and traded some pieces on Instagram for the earrings, which were made by Copper State Cowgirl. “I wanted them to be as big as possible,” Thomas says.

Name: John Sweet

Age: 38

From: Las Vegas

Sweet’s coonskin tail keychain was purchased at a chili cookoff in Utah. “It’s a good stress reliever,” he says of his tendency to stroke the smooth fur.

Name: Jake Beutler

Age: 9

From: Canute, Oklahoma

Beutler is a fifth-generation member of a rodeo family. Beutler & Sons Rodeo Co. is a livestock contractor for the NFR, and Beutler’s grandfather, David Root, says he’s been coming to the NFR pretty much since he was born. “His sister carried the flag tonight, and he’s carrying the flag out tomorrow night,” Root says. The youngster’s custom-designed boots feature his initials and tiny spurs on the back.

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