After a five-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. 5 and run through Saturday, Dec. 14.
The Wrangler NFR National Anthem Contest launched on May 15. PRCA-affiliated rodeo committees had the opportunity to nominate one performer for the contest. From there, a judging committee narrowed the list to the top 4 in each respective rodeo committee category (large, medium and small) and the youth category. From Oct. 15 – 30, fans voted on their selection of choice in each category.
Rylee Werth, representing the youth category and the Jayhawker Round Up Rodeo; Jackie Schmillen, representing the Dayton Championship Rodeo; Lexi Larsen, from the Black Hills Stock Show and Rodeo; and Emily Faith Wilson, affiliated with the Heart of Texas Fair & Rodeo, will perform before a capacity crowd at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Eleven-year-old Werth is the daughter of Rodney and Cristi Werth from Ellis, Kan. She is a sixth grader at St. Mary’s Catholic School in Ellis. Werth has been singing at church and local race tracks since she was 7. By the age of 9 she moved to a bigger stage singing the national anthem for many rodeos, concerts and sporting events in the area.
Born in Cherokee, Iowa, home of the Barnes PRCA Rodeo, Schmillen was quickly introduced to the excitement of professional rodeo. Pursuing a passion for the stage, she graduated high school from the Idyllwild Arts Academy in Idyllwild, Calif. and then received her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Musical Theatre from the University of Miami. After performing in various theatres across the United States she once again found herself back in her home state. She is currently an on-air host of the Great Day morning show program on KCWI-23 HD in Des Moines. Besides singing and performing in shows, she also loves donating her time to various charities. In 2012, she was awarded the title of “Celebrity of the Year” by the Leukemia Lymphoma Society of Central Iowa.
Born and raised in western Nebraska and currently living in Nashville, Tenn., Larsen is a small-town girl with big city appeal. A singer, songwriter and avid fan of rodeo, she recorded her album Good Memories with songs like “Something About A Sunday” and her new single, “You Can Leave” that hits radio in January 2014. She has opened for Country Music Hall of Famer and music legend Ronnie Milsap and Warner Bros recording trio Gloriana. Other notable appearances include her stop at Sturgis, S.D. and the sold-out show in her hometown of Ogallala, Neb. at the famous Haythorn Land & Cattle Company.
A resident of Groesback, Texas, Wilson has had a passion for singing and performing since she was a young girl. A 2011 graduate of Groesback High School, she began entering singing and local talent competitions when she was in the fifth grade. Her dream is to inspire and reach others through music.
The full list of anthem performers include:
Thursday, Dec. 5 – Clay Walker
Friday, Dec. 6 – Susie Dobbs
Saturday, Dec. 7 – Rylee Werth
Sunday, Dec. 8 – Jackie Schmillen
Monday, Dec. 9 – Terry Fator
Tuesday, Dec. 10 – Neal McCoy
Wednesday, Dec. 11 – U.S. Marine Band
Thursday, Dec. 12 – Lexi Larsen
Friday, Dec. 13 – Daryle Singletary
Saturday, Dec. 14 – Emily Faith Wilson
The Wrangler NFR, known as the richest and most prestigious rodeo in the world, has sold out 270 consecutive performances and attracts the top 15 contestants in bareback riding, steer wrestling, team roping, saddle bronc riding, tie-down roping, barrel racing and bull riding as they compete for a share of the $6.25 million purse. Qualification is based on the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association World Standings.