With Tropical Storm Nate threatening the Gulf Coast, the Destin Fishing Rodeo is still on.
“We will be open unless we are under a tropical storm warning or better,” said Rodeo executive director Helen Donaldson Thursday afternoon. “We’ve had bad storms before, but we’ve never closed.
"We haven’t missed a day,” added Donaldson, who’s been director for almost 20 years.
The Destin Fishing Rodeo is Destin’s longest tradition and is part of the heritage of the community that was founded on fishing. The Rodeo goes throughout the entire month of October drawing anglers from all over the United States to compete for cash and prizes. The scales are open daily on the docks behind AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m.
Longtime Rodeo weighmaster Bruce Cheves said he recalls back in the 1990s shutting down one afternoon.
Cheves said that Capt. Elmo Wren was offshore fishing and spotted a rogue storm and that it was headed toward Destin.
“It was blowing like mad at the docks, the wind was 40 to 50 knots,” Cheves said.
He said at that point, Helen Wren, who was Rodeo director at the time, called it for the day and sent everybody home.
“She called the radio station and said ‘tell ’em to keep them on ice and bring them in tomorrow,’ ” Cheves said.
Although the Rodeo has already had some windy days this year, people are still fishing.
“It’s the Rodeo and we’re still here and we’re still weighing fish every day,” Donaldson said. “We might not be weighing the numbers that we would if it was a flat calm beautiful day, but we’re having fun.”
On Day 1 of the Rodeo this year, 47 fish were weighed in, which is down from last year’s 137 fish entries on opening day.
Nevertheless folks are still fishing every day and not just the adults.
“We have given away 250 junior angler certificates in four days … they are catching fish on the docks,” Donaldson said.
And with each certificate, junior anglers also receive a free rod and reel.
“We’re going to be open, we’re going to be selling T-shirts, we’re going to be weighing fish and AJ’s is going to be playing music and selling food and beverages. We’re just going to have a Rodeo,” Donaldson said about the weekend.
“I think we’ll be good for the weekend,” added Rodeo vice-chairman John Brashears. “If we’re not in eminent danger, we’re just going to continue on. Giddy up, it’s Rodeo time.”