For the next ten days, the biggest show in Las Vegas is the 2014 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
The 30th annual event, considered the “Super Bowl of Rodeo,” kicked off on Thursday night at the Thomas & Mack Center at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, and will continue until December 13. Professional ropers, bareback riders, steer wrestlers, barrel racers and more are expected to draw thousands into the city for the event.
Navajo competitors Kassidy Dennison, a barrel racer from Tohatchi, New Mexico; team and tie-down roper Erich Rogers from Round Rock, Arizona; and roper Aaron Tsinigine, from Tuba City, Arizona, qualified to compete in the rodeo. And Dustin Bird, Blackfeet, a team roper is from Cut Bank, Montana.
Dennison is ranked tenth in the 2014 World Standings. She has earned more than $92,000 in winnings just this year, and is the first Navajo barrel rider to qualify for the NFR. Rogers is ranked second in the 2014 World Standings and has earned more than $100,000. Tsinigine, ranked 14th in the 2014 World Standings, has earned his first qualification to the NFR. His earnings for 2014 are just over $68, 000. And Bird took home more than $90,000 in winnings this year, and earned $29,000 at the WNFR last year.
In the first round of competition, which began Thursday night, Rogers placed sixth in the team roping category with a time of 5.50, bringing his purse to $3, 064.90, according to official NFR results. Dennison, Bird and Rogers have competed, but have yet to win prize money.
In an interview with the Great Falls Tribune, Bird said, "I'm ready to go. I went to Texas a couple of weeks ago to practice with my partner [Paul Eaves], and I was in Arizona for Thanksgiving and got to rope a lot there. I feel sharp and my horse is sharp."
Dennison shared a selfie on Twitter with fellow Native riders, and is Tweeting with the #GoFastKass, and #FlyLikeanEagle, the later, perhaps, as an ode to her horse Eagle.
Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly offered his best wishes. “Good luck to all of our Navajo athletes competing this year,” Shelly said in a news release. “We’ll be tuning in and cheering for our cowboys and cowgirl to show the world how the Navajo Nation rodeos.”
In the ten rounds of rodeo, a purse totaling $6.375 million is up for grabs. You can watch the event on CBS Sports.