|Conceived in thought by Captain Horace Towell, and adopted in resolution by
American Legion Joe Graham Post 119 in Gulfport, the Mississippi Deep Sea
Fishing Rodeo came into being in the year of 1947 with the first Rodeo presented in
1948. From a meager beginning, with competitive contestants being mostly local
sport fishermen and women, the Rodeo has enjoyed great popularity and progressive
growth through the years since.
|The American Legion in Gulfport staged the Rodeo prior to 1958 exclusively, as a
service to the Community. The Legion's building was destroyed by Hurricane
Camille in 1969, and was rebuilt at its present location, just North of the Sand Beach
on Courthouse Road.
|While the Rodeo was successful in popularity, it's financial history shows that the Legion Post spent some $16,000 suffering a
loss each year due to the cost of staging the annual sporting event exceeding the revenue received. The American Legion Post
felt that these funds were well spent as a contribution to further the ancient art of Sport Fishing and for the welfare of the
beautiful Mississippi Gulf coastal area.
In 1958, the Gulfport American Legion Post incorporated the Fishing Rodeo as a Non-Profit Civic Improvement Corporation and
dedicated it's future development to the Civic Leaders of the Communities of the Coast. This was done by resolution at a regular
meeting of the Post, in order to be relieved of further financial strain from it's treasury as the Rodeo's financial underwriting
agency, and to widen the scope of promotional activities with greater Civic interest. The active Members of the Post were divided
in their thoughts for the Rodeo's future. Some were in favor of discontinuing it's program, some desired to continue it's program
as a Legion affair, some advocated turning over it's promotion to some other organization...but the heavy majority vote was for
adopting of the present schedule which has proved to be extraordinarily successful.
Since the reorganization of the Rodeo in 1958, the Sport Fishing Festival has been staged annually by Civic Leaders from the
Communities of the Coastal area, and has grown in acclimation by Outdoor Writers of the Press, Television, Radio, Magazines
and other periodicals...as one of the largest and foremost Sport Fishing annual attractions in the World.
|Robert L. Rice (pictured) became the new organization President, and with his leadership
the Rodeo became successful.
|Rice created a Board of Directors of outstanding Gulf Coast Businessman including: Pete
Casano, Tom George, Doctor Bill Starr, Carl Alfonso, J. E. Minners, Lamar Switzer, Billy
Meadows, Laz Quave, R. E. Dedeaux, J. I. Dedeaux, Doctor R. E. L. Stewart, Dick
Lightsey, James Shorg, S. S. Lucket, Lionel Keel, Jimmy Mitchell, Lawrence Mensi, Bob
Gorsline, Walter Helveston, Sam Williams, John Cook, George Bone, Doctor Burman, and
|Each of the Directors had there own job, Finance, Security, Prizes, Fish Bins, Booth
Rentals, and many, many more jobs.
|During the early years, the Rodeo was
held in the Jessup Brothers Tent, which
then was the largest tent in the World.
|As the years passed, the Rodeo moved
into the Ringling Brothers Circus Tent.
|In 1966, because of the massive crowds and a bulky tent, the Rodeo
worked with the then Mayor of Gulfport Billy Meadows, and with the
Rodeo organization built a permanent pavilion called the Rice Pavilion
in honor of Robert L. Rice.
|The Rodeo paid for the materials, and the United States Navy Seabee
Base in Gulfport erected it.
|By the 1985 Rodeo, the new Rice Pavilion was finished...one-third the size of the old pavilion.
By the next Rodeo, realizing that there was not enough room, the Rodeo added 30 feet along
the south end of the Pavilion to be used for the Fish Bin displays, Prize Bin, and a Stage.
|That same year, the Rodeo built on the north side of the Pavilion, with City approval, an Office
for the Rodeo and City and Public Bathrooms. The Fishing Rodeo paid for all the material, and
for a class project, the Mississippi Gulf Coast Junior College did the construction.
|These two pictures show the Carnival, the large parking areas, and the entrance to the pavilion as it appeared until Hurricane
Katrina in 2005,
|Entertainment was under Doctor Bill Starr’s leadership. During his first year, Jacqueline Hines of the Gulfport Recreation
Center danced and performed gymnastics on the Rodeo Stage for 4 days. The 2nd year, Mrs. June Jones, shown in the picture,
brought her Dance School, and with Mrs. Hines they were the entertainment for the first few Rodeos.
|As the years passed, different local Bands donated their time and many local entertainers followed. The Gulfport High School
Band preformed many times, as well as the Kessler Air Force Base Band, the Air National Guard Band and even the main Air
|Many National performers came to the Rodeo such as Dizzy Dean, Paul Harvey, Jane Mansfield, Percy Sledge and many more. In the later years Billy Joe Royal,
Doctor Hook, Cool & The Gang, Black Oak Arkansas, and many others performed on the Rodeo stage.
Today Entertainment is under Aaron Mcgill who attempts to utilizes the best in local talent along the coast.
|Our Giant 4th of July Fireworks Display has been held annually since the first Rodeo when it was sponsored by the American Legion, which was the
main sponsor for the first ten years. The Coca-Cola Bottling Company
co-sponsored with the Legion for several years.
The Fireworks display is a major event and draws large crowds from all over the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
The latest Fireworks Displays were sponsored only by the Rodeo organization with no support from the City of Gulfport. The City of Gulfport also
charged Rodeo organization for all Police overtime due to the event.
|Also visiting the Rodeo (left seated) was our
own United States Senator John Stennis.
|Dizzy Dean, (right center) came to South
Mississippi to help give out Fishing Awards.
|Director Jim Franks and Marine Biologist D.M.R. Buck Bucanon of the Research Lab, come to work as our Rule Judges. The
number one question of what happens to all the fish that enter the Fish Bins can be answered by starting with donation of fish to
Universities on a tri-state level for their Marine Biology research.
|The Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, a division of the National Marine Fisheries, comes in force, attacking each fish that is
entered and saving all their "innards" for their laboratories in Jackson County.
|The Kids Fishing Rodeo is a recent addition to our Rodeo. Over 300 kids participated last year.
Sponsored by Coca-Cola, the tournament is free to all kids 4 to 12 years old. A parent or guardian must
accompany the contestants.
|Prizes are given for the top five fish in each category and a "King Fisherman" and Queen Fisherette is
determined on a point basis. Five points for 1st, four points for 2nd, three points for 3rd, two points for
4th and one point for 5th.
|Each year, the Rodeo puts on a Queen’s Pageant, where Girls from a four County area compete for this
Honor. Each girl receives a College Scholarship.
|This has been only a short history of the Mississippi Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo.
|If you want to know more about our Rodeo, write us at Mississippi Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo, Inc.
you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or just come to the Rodeo and ask us.
|We are all proud of the Rodeo, and we can tell you more Rodeo history than you may want to know.
|We are now in our 72nd year. Your Fishing Rodeo Committee is modestly proud of all of the Rodeo’s outstanding
achievements and it's all-around success, but we fully realize that much of the crowned successful glory goes to the
hundreds of Civic Leaders, Civic Workers, Political Leaders, the public's interest, and the gentlemen of the Press,
Television, Radio and other News mediums whose columns
and contributions have spotlighted the Rodeo as a National and International Sport Fishing attraction.