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Youth sings way to Las Vegas





Rodney Werth, Ellis, and his four sisters all live in the surrounding area and get together often, especially on holidays.

Christmas will be celebrated a little early this year.

Rylee Werth, the 11-year-old daughter of Rod and Cristi Werth, was voted the top youth singer of the National Finals Rodeo National Anthem Contest.

Rylee, a sixth-grader at St. Mary Elementary School in Ellis, has earned the honor of singing the national anthem at the NFR in Las Vegas on Dec. 7.

By online voting, Rylee beat out three other finalists in the 12-under division from Arizona, Montana and Wyoming.

The Werths received notice by telephone Thursday night Rylee was the youth winner of the contest, and her mom said she has been busy ever since making travel arrangements.

As the winner of the youth division, Rylee and one parent -- in this case, her mom -- receive an all-expense paid trip to Las Vegas.

"We got our travel arrangements done first, then started on the rest of the family," said Cristi Werth, who said she was speechless when she received the phone call from NFR.

"We were hopeful, of course," she said of her daughter's chances to win, "but we didn't want to get all excited about something that might not happen."

When they learned Rylee was a finalist in the youth division in the contest that included four different categories, the Werths started contacting family and friends to vote.

"We tried to Facebook everyone we knew and told friends to push it forward to people they knew," Cristi Werth said.

Rylee's mom said her daughter, who has been opening area events with the national anthem for several years, will get a new outfit for this special occasion.

"Oh, heck yes, although with Cowboy Christmas, she might get another new one there," Cristi Werth said of the large, longest running gift show of the NFR that features merchandise ranging from jewelry and art to western wear, boots and even furniture.

Whatever her outfit might be, Rylee will have plenty of support at her big event, both back home and on sight.

In addition to Rylee's parents and three older siblings, several family members and friends plan to make the trip

"With all Rodney's sisters and other family and friends," Cristi Werth said, "we could have up to 40 people going (to Las Vegas)."