DESTIN — Nobody nowadays can quite seem to remember the year when "The Trailer Girls" sold their first T-shirt at the Destin Fishing Rodeo, which started in 1948.
The only thing for certain, if you ask Destin Fishing Rodeo Executive Director Helen Donaldson, is that the shirts were white.
"In the early '80s they were selling short-sleeve and long-sleeve white Rodeo T-shirts," Donaldson said as she tried to piece together a timeline. "When I came on in 1998, we started getting requests from people. We were starting to sell T-shirts more and more and more."
Customers who visit the Rodeo trailer this year can choose among four shirt designs in 17 colors. Those designs are also offered in many different style shirts, from long-sleeve, to sweatshirts to quick dry.
The star among the T-shirts is the traditional Destin Fishing Rodeo design, marking its 70th year. Another fan favorite, The Giddy-Up, is back again with a blonde bombshell riding the back of a shark.
"Every five years the Giddy-Up comes back," said 25-year Trailer Girl volunteer Ann White, who's known for walking around the Rodeo in her bare feet. "She's been a redhead and a brunette, and this year she's a blonde."
The Giddy-Up, however, isn't always a favorite among wives. The T-shirt sometimes gets returned after a husband purchases one without his wife's permission, The Trailer Girls joked Monday.
If you ask White, she'll tell you the T-shirts mean much more to Rodeo-goers than a simple memento. And she would know.
On Wednesday, White lined up every design of the traditional T-shirts dating back into the early '90s, along with some of the quirky designs like a redhead Giddy-Up girl.
"You've gotta have a Destin Fishing Rodeo T-shirt," White said. "Down here, they're a collector's item."
"I buy the T-shirts to represent this area and promote the Rodeo wherever I travel," added Capt. Kirk Marshall, a rodeo competitor who visited the booth Wednesday to buy a shirt. "As I go and fish I'll tell people, 'Come to the Rodeo in October!'"
'It's just fun'
The Trailer Girls bustled about in their large, white trailer just right of the scoreboard Monday as they quickly folded, rolled and stacked hundreds of T-shirts between sales.
The crew said even though their nickname was inspired by the trailer they have now, they didn't always have the luxury of the non air-conditioned work station. Although they don't know the exact year, either, some of the volunteers said the T-shirt sales began with a small fold-out table and one or two volunteers. The size of the T-shirt stand grew with their popularity, they said.
The women said Monday they were just glad to have the shade of the trailer during a rodeo year that is hotter than most.
Now with more than 17 Trailer Girls, White said the women just keep coming back year after year.
Cathy Trotter, an eight-year volunteer, said it's all about the experience of meeting new people and being a small part of the ever growing Rodeo.
"It's just fun," Trotter said. "We meet different people and just enjoy the excitement of people fishing. There are people who come here and will spend about $400 on T-shirts for Christmas.
"People this year are already coming up to tell us 'Hi,' even if they aren't buying a T-shirt today," Trotter added. "People on the outside say, 'We want to be in the trailer with you guys.' "
'We didn't realize'
The veteran Trailer Girls said they had no idea how popular the Destin Fishing Rodeo, especially the T-shirts, would get.
In recent years the T-shirts have brought in $40,000 to $50,000 each Rodeo. Donaldson said the money helps supplement some of the event's operating expenses.
Aside from T-shirts, the trailer also has coffee mugs, stickers, hats, key chains and more. New products will continue to be added, White said.
"Each year everybody asks for something different, so we're still growing," she said. "People want everything from hoodies, sweatshirts, zippers to the girl's razor back T-shirts. Then we have to come up with another place to put all of this stuff. We have a lot of fun out here. It's just another beautiful day in paradise."