Four contest winners join list of 10 to perform at the Thomas & Mack Center
After a three-month promotion, four performers have been selected by fans to sing the national anthem at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. The Wrangler NFR will kick off on Thursday, Dec. 1 and run through Saturday, Dec. 10.
The Wrangler NFR National Anthem Contest launched on Aug. 1. There were two categories for aspiring performers to choose from: open and youth. From there, an initial fan vote narrowed the list to the Top 10 and a panel of judges narrowed the list to the Top 3 youth entries and Top 6 open entries.
From Sept. 26 through Oct. 6, fans voted on their selection of choice in the two categories. The top youth entry was selected and the top three open category vote recipients were selected to perform at the Wrangler NFR in Las Vegas. Molly Gaynor was the youth winner, while Allie Burgett, Lerin Thomas and Nick Neu were the open category winners.
A 22-year-old native of Brewster, Wash., Burgett has been performing the National Anthem at events since high school. Her favorite events have always been rodeo and other sporting events, including the Omak Stampede and World Famous Suicide Race, as well as the Seattle Mariners. It has been her goal for several years now to perform at the Wrangler NFR. While running the woodwork business she started in high school, Burgett is currently in her senior year at Gonzaga University in Washington State and will be graduating in May of 2017.
A small-town Newkirk, Okla., native, Thomas has been performing the National Anthem at community events and rodeos since she was 12 years old. Her favorite event to perform the National Anthem at has always been the sport of rodeo, including the Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo in Duncan, Okla., and the 101 Wild West PRCA Rodeo in Ponca City, Okla. Her father has been involved in rodeo since before she was born, and it has always been a dream for the 22-year-old to sing the National Anthem at the Wrangler NFR. Thomas attends Oklahoma State University and will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Strategic Communications in December of 2017.
Neu hails from Beebe, Ark. and is married with three daughters and twin grandchildren. He is a marketing representative for a commercial insurance agency. Neu also is a competitor, judge and trainer of performance horses and has been involved in horse shows and rodeos all of his life. Much of his time is spent keeping his family’s barrel horses tuned up. He has performed at church all of his life, but his first time to sing the National Anthem came in April of 2016 at a PRCA rodeo.
Raised on a ranch in Powell Butte, Ore., 11-year-old Gaynor is in fifth grade and attends Powell Butte Community Charter School. She has been singing the National Anthem at rodeos since she was six and competing in them as well. Along with her younger sister, Mattie, they compete in breakaway roping, barrels, poles and goat tying. Gaynor loves working with the horses and cows on her family’s ranch and someday wants to become a veterinarian. She feels thankful and very humbled that so many people voted to give her the chance to sing her favorite song at the Wrangler NFR.
The full list of anthem performers includes:
Thursday, Dec. 1 – Mark Wills (also performing at the Hard Rock Hotel)
Friday, Dec. 2 – Clay Walker (also performing at the MGM Grand Gold Buckle Zone)
Saturday, Dec. 3 – Lerin Thomas
Sunday, Dec. 4 – Daryle Singletary (also performing daily at Cowboy Christmas and The Mirage)
Monday, Dec. 5 – Molly Gaynor
Tuesday, Dec. 6 – Nick Neu
Wednesday, Dec. 7 – Nellis Airman
Thursday, Dec. 8 – Brooks & Dunn (also performing at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace)
Friday, Dec. 9 – Allie Burgett
Saturday, Dec. 10 – Easton Corbin
Sold out for 300 consecutive performances at the Thomas & Mack Center, the Wrangler NFR attracts the top 15 contestants in bareback riding, steer wrestling, team roping, saddle bronc riding, tie-down roping, barrel racing, and bull riding. Under the new contract with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association that runs through 2024, the purse is now $10 million. Qualification is based on the 2016 PRCA World Standings.
For more information on the Wrangler NFR, please visit www.NFRexperience.com or through social media at /LasVegasNFR and use #WranglerNFR.
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