Rodeo review: Big business for everyone (PHOTOS)


The Destin Fishing Rodeo is a tradition that brings a major economic boost to nearly every facet of the town's economy throughout October. Here, Weighmaster Bruce Cheves takes the measure of a 60.8 pound Warsaw grouper caught by Peter Antosh on the Sunrise with Capt. Kelly Windes.

Jennie McKeon | The Log
Published: Friday, November 1, 2013 at 03:09 PM.

The founders of the Destin Fishing Rodeo figured out in 1954 that the month-long competition could help keep the town's economy running strong after the typical tourist season ended. Almost 60 years later, nearly every business in town is proving them right.

Everyone from restaurants to hotels, seafood markets to charter boats, and retail stores to merchandising kiosks get a big boost to their income because of the rodeo. And that's been the idea all along: keep the money flowing in a town that depends on tourism, hospitality and leisure to keep the economy running.

The Destin Fishing Rodeo itself is a 501(c)4 non-profit organization. It takes approximately 2,500 work hours from 140 volunteers in the month of October alone to keep one of Destin oldest traditions alive, executive director Helen Donaldson told The Log. The money they generate from sponsors, advertisers, boat registration and merchandise is all put back into the rodeo.

"I can't imagine how much money it actually takes to put the Rodeo on," said Donaldson, who is one of only two paid employees as part of the event (the other being Bruce Cheves, the venerable weighmaster.

All the official numbers for 2013 aren't in yet, but it was a record-breaking year with 1,540 fish weighed in on the barge behind AJ's Seafood and Oyster Bar for the competition. Donaldson said they estimate about 35,000 anglers from 38 states actually fished on registered vessels during the month. Of those, about 22,400 stayed in local lodgings for an average of 5.78 nights.

"If they paid only $65 per night for their accommodation, just the lodging income produced by the Rodeo equals $8,415,680," Donaldson said.

The Emerald Grande sees not only a boost in hotel and condo rentals because of the Rodeo, but also boosts to all the businesses at HarborWalk Vilalge. Marketing coordinator Jamie Hall said she looked out her window at HarborWalk one day in October and she couldn't believe how many people were there.

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