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Voice gives shot at Vegas





Until early this morning, the biggest performances for an 11-year-old Ellis girl were singing the national anthem before the Blackhawk concert at the Trego County Fair in WaKeeney two years ago and performing in front of several thousand people at this summer's Wild West Festival in Hays.

Now, Rylee Werth is dreaming of something much bigger.

At midnight, Rylee's voice went up on a national Internet site in a competition to sing at the National Finals Rodeo National Anthem Contest.

Rylee, a sixth-grader at St. Mary Elementary School in Ellis, is one of four finalists from four states in the youth division for entrants 12 and younger.

Rylee's family and friends are making a push to let everyone know of the Internet voting for the contest.

"I want to make as many contacts as I can to get the word out about this," said Rylee's mom, Cristi Werth. "We would love to see her standing center of the rodeo arena in Las Vegas in December, showing the world how she can sing."

Besides the obvious push for her daughter to earn such an honor, Cristi Werth also said she would "love to see Rylee" represent Kansas at the National Finals Rodeo. The other three finalists in the youth division are from Arizona, Montana and Wyoming.

Fans are eligible to cast one vote per email address through the duration of the voting period, which continues until Oct. 30.

Voters get the chance to listen to the performances. There are three other divisions, for small, medium and large rodeo categories.

The four winners earn an all-expense paid trip to Las Vegas for the Wrangler NFR Rodeo on Dec. 5 to 14.

The Werths heard about the contest this summer from a friend and decided to check it out.

To be eligible for the contest, they learned, Rylee had to sing at a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association sanctioned rodeo. Most of the rodeos around the area are sanctioned by the Kansas Professional Rodeo Association.

The Werths learned there still was one PRCA rodeo in the area on the summer schedule -- the Jayhawker Roundup Rodeo in Hill City.

So Rylee's mom contacted the Jayhawker Rodeo committee with the idea.

Rylee sang in Hill City in July, and the Jayhawker Rodeo committee nominated her for the NFR contest.

The Werths learned last week Rylee was a finalist, and her mom started making calls to family and friends about the voting process.

To vote, fans can go to www.nfrexperience.com and click on the national anthem contest icon on the bottom left.