Cowboy Christmas shatters attendance record

A total of 66,258 people from Oklahoma, the western states and Canadian prairie towns attended opening weekend at the Cowboy Christmas and Fanfest at the Las Vegas Convention Center. There also might have been been a few urban cowboys. This obliterated the previous record of 57,155.

Y’all should know this.

Y’all should now also know why those desperadoes representing Osceola County near Orlando in central Florida tried to rob our stagecoach after last year’s National Finals Rodeo.

Florida sales tax is 6 percent. If you multiply 6 percent times the number of pairs of $549 boots sold at Cowboy Christmas over the weekend, perhaps it wouldn’t cost so much to ride Space Mountain.

After roaming the North Convention halls Monday, it was easy to understand why Orlando and Jerry Jones’ people at AT&T Stadium down in Texas wanted to kidnap our cash cow. Cowboy Commerce — er, Christmas — offers more than 400,000 square feet and about 400 vendors and exhibitors and at least 16 places where you could get a frosty can of Coors Light or a bloody mary.

Lots of greenbacks exchange hands at the Cowboy Christmas. If it were around in Butch and Sundance’s day, they probably would have skipped Bolivia.

If it gets any bigger and they add escalators, a theme park in the middle and an Orange Julius, it’s soon going to look like the Mall of America.

Ring-a-ling, hear them sing. Soon it will be Christmas Day.

It’s one thing to break the previous attendance record, but to break it by more than 9,000 consumers who soon will rush home to Oklahoma with their treasures? That was like Bob Beamon long-jumping 29 feet, 2½ inches in Mexico City.

When the distance was announced over the loudspeakers and it was confirmed that Beamon had broken the old record by almost 2 feet, his legs gave way and he suffered a brief cataplexy attack brought on by emotional shock.

It’s sort of the way I felt Monday when I walked into the Boot Barn exhibit, which was roughly the size of Montana, and discovered the boots that I thought would look great stuffed into my wife’s stocking cost $549.

Custom jewelry, Western wear, boots, spurs, furniture, original art, handmade crafts, home goods, die-cast John Deere tractors painted bright green — you could find it all at Cowboy Christmas. For the guy on your list from Wyoming who is hard to buy for, there were separate booths peddling calf-roping chutes to keep one’s doggies movin’.

So it was decided that instead of those boots, I would instead stuff my wife’s stocking with a boxed set of “High Chaparral” DVDs. If they had two booths selling calf-roping chutes, certainly there would be at least one catering to fans of the old TV Westerns.

Annie Aznarez, who has been running the Cowboy Christmas for nine years, gave me a map to get me started. She was wearing a pink sweater, maroon pants and cowboy boots with studs. These were Dan Post models. She said she not only runs the show, she shops there.

By Monday, the weekend crowds had thinned but there still were a lot of people wearing felt hats with sharp creases and Boise State T-shirts roaming the convention hall. And one guy sporting a Manchester United soccer jersey whose eyes appeared glazed over. Everybody was carrying a shopping bag, or two or three. Even the bloke wearing the Man-U shirt.

“We had the cold snap last year, but when the weather is nice and people can get out here from their hometowns, it definitely affects our attendance,” Annie Aznarez said.

I managed to keep my credit card in my pocket for the required eight seconds while a bunch of kids rode bulls at the NFR Fanfest. They were baby bulls, but none named Orlando Cepeda.

I could not find any “High Chaparral” DVDs among the hats and the leather goods and a lot of stuff colored turquoise. Money was spent instead on an Ultimate Big Cheese sandwich, chips and a Diet Coke.

A nice woman from Oklahoma whose husband is an alfalfa farmer sat down next to me at the food court. She was lugging two shopping bags, which seemed about average for a Monday afternoon at the Cowboy Christmas.

In the distance, I could hear a female voice, accompanied by guitar and fiddle. The female voice belonged to a pretty woman with swirls of blonde hair named Kimberly Dunn. She was singing a song about Kentucky.

I stopped at a booth where Bob Knight’s autographed picture, and those of racing drivers Bobby Unser, Johnny Rutherford and Richard Petty, were tacked up on the wall behind a bunch of giant safes.

Bill James of the Fort Knox giant safe company of Orem, Utah, says he can custom-build a giant safe that will hold as many as 71 hunting rifles and will keep them safe from kids and a fire, should one occur, until the hook and ladders arrive.

You can get almost anything at the Cowboy Christmas. Except “High Chaparral” DVDs.

But on the way out of the North Hall, I stumbled with glassy Manchester United eyes upon a small booth that had Western movie posters and 8-by-10 glossy black-and-white photos of people who had starred in Western movies and Western-themed TV shows for sale.

Eureka! They had a photo of the cast of “High Chaparral” that showed Leif Erickson standing next to Cameron Mitchell.

There were still nine left, but it was only Monday.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.

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