As the National Cowboy Day – weekend segment comes to a close I leave you with three final cowboys that bring the cowboy culture to life in the neon city.
The Celebrity Cowboy:
No Vegas scene is complete without a celebrity, and the cowboy scene in Vegas highlights one of the most well known celebrity cowboys in the country music industry.
Since his Wynn debut in 2009, Garth Brooks, the number one selling solo artist in U.S. history has packed in country-fan crowds during monthly weekend engagements, throughout the year.
Growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma Brooks was the youngest of six in a creative and musically talented family. Brooks released his first album in 1989, which peaked at #2 in the US country album chart and #13 on the Billboard 200 pop album chart. Since then his music fame has grown throughout the world and his Vegas popularity has soared since he emerged from retirement to bring his cowboy compositions to the neon city.
The Corporate Cowboy:
Sitting behind his desk dressed in professional business attire he suits the role of General Manager with no questions asked. He leaves his office and from tie to dress shoes makes his way beyond the casino floor, along the carpeted hallways, down metal staircase, and through the metal doors. The smell of cattle and horses fill the air, hay and dirt cover the ground. Dressed in a suit, he receives double takes from those around as he looks out of place, but for South Point GM, Ryan Growney, behind the chutes, in the casino’s climate controlled stables and in the company of cowboys and over 1,000 horses, this is one of the highlights of his job.
“My background was strictly rodeo, I grew up here in Vegas and until I was 15 my exposure was NFR, we went every year I thought it was a fantastic event.
Through last name confusion, some family and friend clarification and a friendly introduction Growney was introduced to Michael Gawn and John Growney when he was 11 years-old and attending NFR. John Growney informed the NFR awed 11 year-old that “all Growney’s, when they’re old enough to drive, come work for me for a summer” Finally at 15 years old, he was given the opportunity to go out to the ranch and learned the ropes of cowboy lifestyle on the ranch.
“Mr. Gauwn sent me out to his ranch to get the in’s and the out’s and I spent probably about a year going riding once or twice a week to learn the etiquette of being around a horse, and how to take care of the animals and the dos and don’ts,” said Growney. “Then it came time, so I went and bought two pairs of jeans, a couple t-shirts and a pair boots and they dropped me off in Santa Maria, California with John Growney and his crew, which consisted of the pick up men, the bullfighters, and the laborers and I went on the road with the rodeo circuit when I was 15, which is kind of like the circus but with livestock. My first year there I was just trying to figure it out and I loved it, so I ended up doing it for 7 years. By the end I could rope a bit, I could ride, and I got into the arena where we were escorting bulls around.”
Since July of last year, this cowboy has occupied the GM desk at South Point Casino working not only with the typical casino and hotel obligations but fulfilling his love of the cowboy culture simultaneously.
“Most of the time I’m dressed in a suit, but whenever we have events come to town, I put the boots on and the hat on. Sometimes I will be the only one in the office and I’ll pull the ropes out and be playing around in the office with them and someone will come in and ask for the GM and it’s like ‘yea, that’s me.’ It throws people off sometimes,” said Growney.
“This was an old west town, it’s obviously a bit different today, but there’s still enough western events that come to town to where you kind of get your fix. It lets me appreciate it because on the casino side we open our arms to them and then it just feels good to just be a part of it and fit in when those events are taking place,” said Growney. “I just did it for fun for 7 years but it has become a trait that aids my professional career in the casino business.”
The Show Cowboy:
With backgrounds in trick roping and western themed performances, two Vegas cowboys take center stage, as the only cowboy act of it’s kind in Cirque du Soleil.
“Being a cowboy in Vegas is kinda fun, because we normally wear cowboy gear, your standard; chaps and dirty stuff. If a cowboy’s not dirty we’re not at home, but here at Cirque du Soleil, we are impeccable and we have the best cowboy bling bling you can imagine,” said trick roper and performer Will Roberts.
Bringing the spirit of the American cowboy to the limelight in the Viva Elvis show, Roberts and Loop Rawlins trick rope in ten shows a week for audience members, young and old.
“I originally started trick roping when I was 8 years old,” said Rawlins. “I use to do a traveling one man wild west show and I worked at various dude ranch resorts and festivals around the nation and around the world. Going from 200 to almost a 2,000 seat house every night really helps you get over the nerves and is a dream.”
With the Western culture in their back pocket and spotlights shining on them nightly, the definition of a cowboy comes into full play.
“What does define a cowboy? A cowboy might be in a pickup truck; it might be in a regular car, it doesn’t really matter. It might be someone who learns how to line dance at a bar, it might be someone who just does karaoke at the cowboy bar once a week, it could be just the fact that you wear cowboy boots all the time or you just like to watch westerns,” said Roberts. “It’s a lifestyle. It’s not only the fact that you might swing a rope, or ride or shoot guns, that doesn’t matter. It’s the fact that you have something in your heart that has a sense of the country, a sense of pride in everything you do and a dedication to the lifestyle. What is a cowboy? You define what that is.
From horseback to center stage the cowboys of Vegas sport their gallon hats and western manner in a plethora of ways from traditional Vegas glitter and entertainment to the conventional ways of the ranch. Whether adorned with gallon hats and stirrups, chaps and bikinis, a badge and gun, slacks, jeans or leather, the cowboys of Vegas give the Western culture a unique spin from every angle.