September is busy month for October Rodeo

With the 71st Destin Fishing Rodeo less than a month away it’s starting to get a little chaotic and exciting at the same time at the Rodeo office.

“It’s starting to get crazy,” said Helen Donaldson, executive director of the Destin Fishing Rodeo.

Registrations from charter boat captains and private boat captains are coming in.

“I think we might be a little over (from where we were this time last year),” Donaldson said.

As of last Friday, 76 charter boats and 22 private boat captains had registered for the month-long fishing tournament.

“That’s looking really good … better than normal. I even have people already registering in the pier, bridge, jetty and surf division,” she said.

When it was all said and done last year, the Rodeo had 245 registered boats and 19 in the PBJS division.

Not only are boats and fishermen getting registered, but the coveted T-shirts are rolling in. Just last week, another shipment of shirts came in.

“We’ve got tons of shirts,” Donaldson said. “We had a board meeting last week and people had to lean on the boxes "because of the massive shipment)."

The Rodeo merchandise trailer is expected to be moved around to the parking lot of the Destin Community Center this week where it will get loaded up with shirts and more.

“It’s going to start looking like Rodeo time around the community center,” Donaldson said.

“We’re hoping if everything goes well that we’ll have the trailer open by Sept. 15 or 16 (on the docks near AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar),” Donaldson said.

September is a busy month for the Rodeo that kicks off Oct. 1.

“We start off with our judges meeting on Sept. 10 and then there is the ‘Meet Miss Destin’ event on the 19th,” she said.

The Meet Miss Destin event will be held at 6 p.m. at the Bay House on Calhoun Avenue and will be an introduction party of sorts for Miss Destin Brooke O’Keefe. Captains, crew, anglers and volunteers are invited to attend.

The busiest day, however, will be Sept. 27.

There will be a mandatory Captain and Mate’s Meeting downstairs at AJ’s. Captains, who have not registered, will have the chance to do so starting at 4 p.m. The meeting will begin at 5 p.m. with free food and beverages.

Immediately following the meeting, the Reel Local Rodeo Kick-Off Party, a family-fun gathering and cookout, will take place outside at AJ’s.

As part of the kick-off, the 11th annual Kid’s Wagon Boat Parade will roll out at 6 p.m. from AJ’s. There is no registration fee and is open for elementary school-aged children. In addition to the boat parade there will be face painting along with arts and crafts for the kids.

The Rodeo leaderboard, which charts out who’s caught the biggest fish in the various categories, should go up the last week of September.

There are no new fish divisions in the Rodeo this year.

“We didn’t add anything, we just restructured the daily award so that it’s the largest fish of the tournament,” she said.

There will not be a daily leader board for small boats and big boats. It will be one daily board for the largest fish of the day.

“I think the board felt like it made that fish more important. It’s a more prestigious award when you get the largest fish of the day,” Donaldson said.

Anglers will receive a $25 merchandise voucher for largest fish each day for the following species: Almaco Jack, blackfin tuna, king mackerel, red grouper, amberjack, grouper, mingo, Spanish mackerel, black snapper, scamp, redfish and wahoo. There will also be a daily for the largest fish caught by a lady and a junior angler. The voucher can be used for anything in the merchandise trailer from shirts, hats, visors to mugs. It just has to be used by the end of October.

However, the Rodeo merchandise trailer, the manning of the judges table and more couldn’t be done without volunteers.

“I have great volunteers,” Donaldson said.

From Marion Palmgren working on scheduling out the judges, to Ann White getting the merchandise trailer together and workers scheduled to Angela Kalthoff, who inputs all the boats into the Excel program.

Between the 60 judges and 15 to 20 office and T-shirt volunteers, Donaldson estimates about 1,750 volunteer hours will be worked in October.

“All the volunteers are doing their things and it’s awesome,” she said. “We’re rolling.”