Prayer At The National Finals Rodeo
In 2012, after a 26 year absence, prayer returned to the opening ceremonies of the National Finals Rodeo (NFR).
Below: The Marine Corps Mounted Color Guard rehearsing for the 2012 National Finals Rodeo.
The NFR, held annually for ten consecutive days the first week of December, is organized by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) and is the largest, best-recognized rodeo Finals in the United States. The Wrangler Jeans company is the NFR's title sponsor, and the event is therefore also referred to as the WNFR.
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Saying a prayer during the opening ceremonies of a rodeo is a long-standing tradition in rodeos across the United States, but until its return in 2012 the NFR had not had an opening prayer since 1985.
Emma Carpenter, the owner and webmaster of the CowboyWay.com website, was concerned about the absence of prayer at the NFR and confused by conflicting information being passed around on the Web. She wanted accurate information to pass along to visitors of CowboyWay.com. Therefore, she wrote to the PRCA and asked them about prayer during the opening ceremonies of the NFR.
The answer CowboyWay.com received from the PRCA is below, and is shared with you in its entirety.
From: Compton, Sherry (at ProRodeo.com)
Subject: Prayer at the WNFR
Date: Fri 03/08/13 05:32 PM
Emma: Thank you for writing. I saw that you had an email address so I hope that it is okay to correspond with you this way. Below you will see a statement from the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association regarding their stance on prayer.
I've attended the NFR for many years and was not always available for the opening ceremony, so I never thought about the absence of prayer.
When the NFR was held in Oklahoma City, prior to 1985, Clem McSpadden used to recite his Cowboy Prayer at some point during each performances and I don't believe that it was part of the opening. When the NFR moved to Las Vegas in 1985, I'm guessing that Clem did not continue the practice, or might have for a few years???
No one at the PRCA is against prayer and it is a long standing tradition at most PRCA rodeos throughout the country. I'm a Christian and certainly want hear prayer at rodeos.
There are multiple opportunities for WNFR contestants to pray prior to each performance in Las Vegas with different ministry groups behind the scenes, and there is Elevation Sunday which is attended by many.
This year the contestants requested prayer at the start of each performance of the 2012 WNFR, and their request was granted. So after not having an opening prayer for 26 years or longer, it is now a part of each WNFR performance.
My best wishes,
PRCA Communications Department
The majority of information traveling social media regarding "prayer" at the WNFR is completely inaccurate. The facts are, the NFR moved to Las Vegas in 1985 and there has never been an opening prayer in the last 26 years. The perception that prayer has been eliminated comes from the extended television coverage where our TV fans, for the first time, got to enjoy the entire opening events including the National Anthem and the Grand Entry. Because there was no opening prayer heard by the television audience, fans assumed that the PRCA, Las Vegas Events or some other outside group had cancelled the prayer that was never there. The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association takes great pride in the fact that this Nation was founded on the principle of religious freedom and would hope our fans respect each person's individual right to that religious freedom. We are proud of our Association and our cowboy heritage.
Thank You, PRCA!
CowboyWay.com would like to say "thank you" to the PRCA for returning opening prayer to the NFR!
We would also like to say "thank you" to the PRCA for responding to our inquiry about prayer at the NFR in a timely and polite manner.
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Opening Prayer At The NFR Press Release
If you would like to share the news that opening prayer has returned to the National Finals Rodeo at the request of the contestants, you may use the following press release.
OPENING PRAYER RETURNS TO THE NATIONAL FINALS RODEO
After a 26 year absence prayer has returned to the opening ceremonies of the National Finals Rodeo (NFR). The NFR, held annually for ten consecutive days the first week of December, is organized by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) and is the largest, best-recognized rodeo Finals in the United States. The Wrangler Jeans company is the NFR's title sponsor, and the event is therefore also referred to as the WNFR. Saying a prayer during the opening ceremonies of a rodeo is a long-standing tradition in rodeos across the United States, but until its return in 2012 the NFR had not had an opening prayer since 1985.
Emma Carpenter, the owner and webmaster of the CowboyWay.com website, was concerned about the absence of prayer at the NFR and confused by conflicting information being passed around on the Web. She wanted accurate information to pass along to visitors of her website.
"I wrote the PRCA head office in Colorado Springs," explained Carpenter. "I asked them if there was prayer during the opening ceremonies of the NFR. If not, I asked them the reason why and when it was dropped. I also asked them for any comments they would like to make on the subject. I received a very polite response."
According to Carpenter, the PRCA's response held good news.
"The good news is, thanks to the request of the contestants, there was a prayer during each of the opening ceremonies of all ten NFR performances in 2012," said Carpenter. "The PRCA said the contestants requested the return of prayer, and they were happy to grant their request."
The PRCA's response also held a little sad news, however.
"According to the PRCA's reply to me, the last time there had been prayer during the opening ceremonies at the NFR, before its return in 2012, was back in 1985 when the NFR was still held in Oklahoma City. After 1985 the NFR moved to its current location in Las Vegas, and an opening prayer wasn't said there until 2012. That's a 26 year gap. The PRCA was quick to clarify that it was not a policy of theirs, or any of the Las Vegas event promoters, to drop prayer. They said one simply wasn't said for whatever reason."
Carpenter was at once relieved to know that prayer had returned to the opening ceremonies of the NFR rodeo performances, but also a little discouraged there was such a long absence.
"My husband and I always went to the Finals when it was in Oklahoma City," she said. "But we haven't gone since it moved to Las Vegas. We didn't know prayer had been dropped until we read something about it on the Web last year. My first reaction was that the information we found had to be wrong; I mean this is prayer and rodeo. To many of us, those two things are synonymous."
Now that prayer has returned Carpenter feels she has good news to share with her website's visitors.
"I made a page specially to share the PRCA's response with CowboyWay.com's visitors. I'm just glad it's good news I get to share."
People wanting more information regarding the PRCA's stance on prayer can see their complete response to Carpenter at http://www.cowboyway.com/NationalFinalsRodeoPrayer.htm.
CowboyWay.com has been owned and operated by Bill and Emma Carpenter of Douglass, KS since it debuted on the Web in 1999. The Carpenters have years of experience in the ranching and livestock industries, and were co-owners of the now retired Carpenter Rodeo Company.
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