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NFR's Cowboy Christmas opens to crowd of hundreds; many maskless amid COVID-19 surge

NFR Hoedown 2018
Posted at 10:56 PM, Dec 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-02 02:16:19-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Las Vegas elites joined National Finals Rodeo heavyweights to light a cowboy-themed Christmas tree to mark the opening of the annual Cowboy Christmas sales convention Tuesday as hundreds of people watched.

Steve Hill, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority CEO, said the crowds were welcome as losing the convention in 2020 to Texas due to coronavirus restrictions left the city without a quarter-billion-dollar business influx.

"We missed you like we missed family last year," Hill said.

The vendors missed Las Vegas as well.

First-time convention vendor Kate Voldmanis, Kemosabe buyer, said the vibe inside of the south convention hall was electric as people poured onto the floor.

"It's December 1st, am I right, and we're all in the Christmas mode now so I think everyone is ready to shop," she said.

Long-time vendor Jocelyn Slattery, Fellowship of Christian Cowboys executive secretary, said the business is critical to continuing her mission to spread the gospel to cowboys on the rodeo circuit.

"This is a huge thing for us," she said, "because when you purchase things from us it goes directly into our ministry."

The convention opened on the same day, however, as a new and highly contagious coronavirus variant, the Omicron variant, was confirmed to be in California.

A lot of people made no attempt to follow the state's indoor mask mandate as well.

Despite wearing a mask while manning her booth, Slattery said she wasn't concerned by the risk of contracting the coronavirus because of her faith.

"I believe God has all of this under control," she said. "Nothing has caught him by surprise."

Voldmanis, on the other hand, said her woman-run business was built to be strong whether the virus spikes or not.

"We went through shutdowns and scares, and we all had COVID," she said. "As long as people are safe and smart I think we're all going to get through this. I hope."

KTNV reached out to Gov. Steve Sisolak's office and the LVCVA to see if they had a plan to better enforce the mask mandate at NFR and Cowboy Christmas but didn't hear back by the deadline.