LAS VEGAS, Nev. - As we reached the halfway mark of this year's Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, there were plenty of highlights in the arena and it wasas exciting as ever.-

But there's more to this event than the rodeo action.-

A few days before the finals got under way, the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association honors the best contract personnel, stock contractor and rodeo committees. The winners in each category were named Dec. 1 during the annual Contract Personnel Awards Banquet at the Mirage Hotel and Casino.

A total of 12 different categories were honored with at least five nominations in each. Nominations for each award were voted on by the contract personnel, and the top five cumulative point winners in each category made up the official ballot. All contract personnel, stock contractors, rodeo committees and the top 100 contestants in each event then had the opportunity to vote.

This year's winners included some past winners and some new winners as well. ----

One of the early highlights for me in Las Vegas was seeing PRCA Announcer Wayne Brooks take home his first PRCA Announcer of the Year award.

Brooks, who has been a member of the PRCA since 1994, was nominated for the award along with Bob Tallman, Hadley Barrett, Randy Corley and Boyd Polhamus

"This is unbelievable," said Brooks, of Lampasas, Texas. "Bob Tallman, Hadley Barrett, Randy Corley are my heroes and the guys I have looked up to since I started my announcing career. To win this award means the world to me."

Flint Rasmussen took home two awards and since he's moving over exclusively to the PBR next season, I was pleased to see Rasmussen go out with two more trophies. Rasmussen, of Choteau, Mont., won his eighth straight PRCA Clown of the Year award and seventh Coors Man in the Can. Rasmussen is currently working his eighth Wrangler NFR, which came to a close Dec. 11.

Joe Baumgartner took home his second consecutive Bullfighter of the Year award while PRCA Stock Contractor Stace Smith, won his second Stock Contractor of the Year award.

Baumgartner is sat out this year's NFR after taking a horn to the eye at the PBR World Finals last month.

"I'll be back at the end of the month," Baumgartner said. "It's much better."

Smith, of Athens, Texas, also accepted the award on behalf of the Athens, Texas, Rodeo which tied for the PRCA Small Rodeo of the Year along with the rodeo in Casper, Wyo.

The Small Rodeo of the Year category includes rodeos with less than $3,000 added money per event.

The Medium Rodeo of the Year award is given to a rodeo that adds between $3,000 and $9,999 per event. This year's winner was the Days of '76 Rodeo in Deadwood, S.D.

The Large Rodeos are broken into Outdoor and Indoor Rodeos that have more than $10,000 added per event. Winning the award for Large Outdoor Rodeo was the Cheyenne (Wyo.) Frontier Days Rodeo and for Large Indoor the San Antonio (Texas) Stock Show and Rodeo took home the award.

Cheyenne's directors went over to the table where the Pendleton Round-Up directors were sitting to congratulate them on being nominated. It was obvious there is a close relationship between the two famed rodeos.

Other awards that were given out included Secretary of the Year, Sunni Deb Backstrom, Dress Act of the Year, Tommy Lucia and Comedy Act of the Year Troy Lerwill.

Butch Thurman of Pendleton, has covered professional rodeo for 25 years.- His email address is butch@rodeosportsupdate.com

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