Destin Fishing Rodeo wrapping up

Sheri Kotzum | 315-4353 | @DestinLogSheri |

The 70th Annual Destin Fishing Rodeo is coming to a close.

“I think it was a great Rodeo,” said Helen Donaldson, executive director of the Rodeo.

Despite being shut down for a few days due to Hurricane Michael, Donaldson said she thinks this was one of the best years.

“Every year, about four or five days into it, we say ‘oh we didn’t think about that,’ but we haven’t had that moment this year,” she said. “I think after 70 years, we finally got it right.”

Longtime Rodeo weighmaster Bruce Cheves agreed.

“With all the things that went wrong, like the hurricane and red tide, we’re still gonna bust 1,000 entries,” Cheves said. “Even if we only had 650 entries, it would have been successful because of the conditions, but that fact that we’re still gonna get over 1,000 is amazing.”

Cheves said he felt like the hurricane brought in more amberjack than usual.

“There are amberjacks all over the place,” Cheves said. “Everybody on every boat every day has had amberjacks, especially after the hurricane.”

Going into its final days, the Rodeo T-shirt trailer was down to the last of its stock.

“We’re done to a couple bins,” said longtime Rodeo volunteer Ann White. “There aren’t any mediums left and just a few smalls.”

White said the ending of the Rodeo is always bittersweet for her.

“I’m the one that gets sad and depressed,” she said. “It’s just poof, it’s over. In November, there’s just nobody here and it’s just sad.”

The Rodeo will wrap up on Oct. 31 with a big Halloween celebration complete with a late night costume contest at AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar and fireworks. Kids in costume will also be able to eat free at AJ’s between 4-7 p.m.

“It’ll be a lot of of fun and the boats always bring a surprise in,” Donaldson said. “The crew will be in costume and I’ve seen them decorate fish. There’s no telling what’s gonna happen.”

Even when the Rodeo is over, Donaldson and her volunteers still have work to do to prepare for the Rodeo Awards Banquet on Nov. 4.

“It’s amazing how much we can get done in those three and a half days before the banquet,” Donaldson said.

In that short amount of time, trophies are engraved and checks are written for all of the Rodeo winners on the big leaderboard. Once the banquet is over, Donaldson will finally get to relax.

For a few weeks at least.

“We’re gonna start working on the 71st (Rodeo) on Jan. 1,” she said.