Record Rodeo in the making at AJ's: Fishing finale on tap with fireworks and costumed fun

Advertorial by Tina Harbuck
Check out this 27.2-pound wahoo caught Oct. 22 by 12-year-old Case Rhodes of Tennessee on the Swoop II. His catch was the largest of the day by a junior.

With every fish that is weighed and written up, a record is being set in the 65th annual Destin Fishing Rodeo on the docks behind AJ's Seafood and Oyster Bar.

"We are making history every time we do a weigh in," said Tracy McCraw, AJ's director of marketing. "Why not be a part of that history and be here when the last fish comes in."

The scales are open daily from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. on the docks behind AJ's. As of close on Day 25 of the Rodeo, more than 1,350 fish had been weighed in, 150-plus more than the record of 1,182 fish entries set in 2008.

"Not only have we had a number record of fish, record number of T-shirts sold, we've had a record number of volunteers," said Helen Donaldson, executive director of the Rodeo. "We have been so busy we've had to call in extra volunteers on the busy nights" to man the judges table as well as the merchandise trailer.

Alan Laird, owner of AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar was not surprised one bit by this rodeo for the record book.

"There is only one thing better to me than setting records," Alan said with a grin and a slight pause, "that's breaking them! It's these moments that I live for!"

And you'll not want to miss the final hours or the last five days of the month-long event.

On Oct. 31, Halloween and the final day of the Rodeo, AJ's has plans for young and old alike. There will be trick or treating for the youngsters at AJ's Tiki Village, plus children who are decked out in their Halloween costumes eat free at AJ's from 5-7 p.m. when accompanied by a parent.

After the last fish is hoisted on the scales and following closing ceremonies of the rodeo, fireworks will light up the sky behind AJ's after 7:30 p.m.

Then at 10 p.m. AJ's will have their Adult Halloween contest. Winner takes home $500.

"We will have drink specials all night long. It's a Halloween Party AJ's style."

But before all the ghouls and goblins come out, there are five days left to Rodeo.

You can catch a glimpse of that big fish, and have a chance to snag a "giveaway" from one of the many local sponsors. Every evening AJ's gives away everything from massages to gift certificates at area stores and restaurants.

"We keep picking up sponsors each year," McCraw said, noting the number is at about 40 now for local sponsors.

"If we just do what we did this year and have the seafood festival next year … it will immediately be successful."

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