You win a contest, all expenses paid, to a major country-music awards show in Las Vegas. What happens next?
Rocks Off will admit we had never even pondered that question until someone from Reliant Energy offered us a chance to interview the winner of Reliant's "Dream Trip of a Lifetime." The package deal included a three-night stay at the MGM Grand, tickets to this year's Academy of Country Music Awards (also at the MGM Grand), a taping of the CBS special Lionel Richie & Friends: A Lifetime of Hits, free shuttle transportation and some other cool stuff.
The winner turned out to be Laura Bryant, a registered nurse who lives in Waco but travels all across Central and East Texas as a wound-care specialist. The contest ran in conjunction with this year's Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, but Bryant won after a friend of hers posted a link to the sweepstakes on her Facebook wall. (Bryant has been to RodeoHouston before, she says, just not this year.)
"I was a little overwhelmed," says the single mother of two grown daughters who admits she had been feeling the empty-nest blues. "I thought it was so wonderful. It was the perfect time. I needed a little R&R."
Bryant's schedule is as tricky as someone whose job keeps them on the road most of the time can be, but eventually Rocks Off spoke with her by phone one afternoon last month.
Rocks Off: Why did you decide to enter the contest?
Laura Bryant: I really don't know. A friend posted it on my wall and said, "You should join!" So I thought, "Why not?" and I did. It's not something I normally do. I just did... to my surprise.
RO: Had you ever been to Vegas before?
LB: I have. That was my fourth trip, two on business and the one prior was a family trip. I took my mother and my daughters, who had never been there. This was my second time just for fun.
RO: Who are a few of your favorite country artists?
LB: Oh, I love them all. [At the awards] I really enjoyed seeing Sugarland. She [singer Jennifer Nettles] performed. I loved Lionel Richie. That was over-the-top, after that tribute. That brought back a lot of the '80s [laughs]. Of course Tim McGraw. I love music in general, so every one of them was enjoyable.
RO: Who was the first country artist that you really got into?
LB: You know, I would probably have to say Kenny Rogers. I loved him so much when I was growing up, and he actually performed out there too. I got to see him. And then after that probably Steve Wariner.
RO: What did you think of the awards themselves?
LB: Everybody was so wonderful. The J.D. Haas Company were our facilitators, and they were everywhere. They always had a smile. They were awesome. We stayed at the MGM Grand, and they were over the top. It was a wonderful trip.
RO: What all did they have you do out there?
LB: They had a concert/outdoor festival prior to the awards. They had different barbecue vendors all over, places you could shop, indoor-type kiosks, set up. That went on for two days, then we had that pre-outdoor concert. Then we had the awards night and the Lionel Richie taping.
Those were what they had tickets set up. During the day, we were pretty much on our own, but then they'd have buses that would take us wherever we wanted to go and get us back.
RO: Did you get to meet anyone?
LB: You know, I didn't. We met a couple of girls from Connecticut who ran into Eric Church and didn't realize who it was until a little bit later. Many of them were staying there at the MGM Grand too, so I'm kind of surprised we didn't run into anybody.
RO: How was the hotel?
LB: Oh, it was wonderful. They had done an extensive renovation, so they were extremely comfortable, clean. It was great. Absolutely no complaints.
RO: Was it like Vegas looks in the movies?
LB: (laughs) Vegas was crazy. Lots of people, lots of action, all the time. But then it was quiet, we could go to the pool or whatever. But it is. Vegas is Vegas, just on 24-7. It really is one of those places you go visit and need a vacation away from a vacation.
RO: Did you get to gamble at all?
LB: We did. We played mostly slots, and actually met a couple of middle-aged men from Austin and had so much fun laughing. We had like 12 people standing around thinking we won it big we were laughing so much. We didn't lose much, because we only played a little.
RO: Did you get any time for shopping or anything like that?
LB: I did. We shopped at the festival, and we took a bus to one of the malls and power-shopped a little bit. That was it. We didn't do a whole lot of shopping.
RO: Don't they have shops in the hotel?
LB: They do. Of course they're a little more expensive, but they have shops all along the main strip there too.
RO: Who did you bring with you?
LB: I took my best friend. Her name is Teresa Mitchell. We work together and are also best friends.
RO: What did she think about all this stuff?
LB: Oh, she had a wonderful time. It's very rare that we get to vacation together, and we have the same territory, so it's hard for us to be away, but we got permission to get coverage. So we got a couple of days to get out of the field and have fun. She was very appreciative.
RO: Do you have any performing ambitions yourself?
LB: Mmmm. I perform for myself all the time (laughs), but that's it. I love music. My TV is almost never on, and my music is always on. A lot of praise and worship and a variety of music, but I don't really have a calling to perform, unfortunately. I missed out on all the travel and the big bucks, but I'll leave that for someone else.
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