A brief history of the Mississippi Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo from its beginning to today.
The Rodeo is held annually during the 4th of July events on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Mississippi Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo History
Old and New Logos
A Brief History of the Rodeo
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
Clyde Hurlbert.
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.
In 1984 the Federal Government gave the City of Gulfport a great honor by building the new Coast Guard Station in it's Small
Craft Harbor. Unfortunately, for the Fishing Rodeo, the new Coast Guard Station was to be built on the site of the Rice Pavilion.
The Rodeo meet with the then Mayor of Gulfport Jack Barnett, and he informed the Rodeo Committee that the Government had
given the City finances to rebuild the pavilion. and the Rodeo would be "grand-fathered" in on the new building.
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,
In 1953, before the sixth Rodeo, the then Governor of the Great State of Mississippi, Hugh L. White, proclaimed the Rodeo as the "State's Official Fishing Event.”
With this, the Rodeo became the State's Official Fishing Tournament, and the Rodeo's Fishing Records become the beginning of the State's official Fishing Records.
Each Governor thereafter has made the proclamation...“The first week of July will be Mississippi Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo Days."
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
Force Band.
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.
During preparation for the 1966 Rodeo, Robert Rice, City of Gulfport Civic Leaders and members of the State Port Authority worked together to locate what is now
known as Dole Fresh Fruit today. A group of businessmen from South America were invited to Gulfport during the Rodeo event. The Rodeo volunteered to pay for
room and board and honor them at the Rodeo. The Rodeo, expecting 4 or 5 people, were surprised when over 30 people showed up to honor them. The Rodeo's
hospitality was one of the leading factors in convincing them to come to the State Port in Gulfport. When the City of Gulfport decided to acquire and restore the Old
Courthouse on Courthouse Road, the Rodeo volunteered to help with this project.
Besides promoting the Mississippi Gulf Coast, fishing is the biggest part of the Rodeo. The Mississippi Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo is an annual salt and fresh water
competition for all ages. Since the beginning of the Rodeo, the competition has been FREE to all fishermen and fisherwomen. Each year, the registration exceeds
3,000 entries. The Fishing Rodeo has 28 categories and present daily prizes on each and a first and second place on the final prizes including a King and Queen
Fisherman Trophy. Giant crowds pack in to the Rice Pavilion to see the catch each year.
For the really Competitive Fisherman, we have added Shootouts where the contestant contributes a small entry fee...with the
winners receiving a cash prize. There is a 100% cash payback plus a Rodeo contribution. The categories for these Shootouts
are: Cobia, Redfish, Bass, and a new category in 2004 Speckled Trout..
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 excess fish produced from the Fish Bins are donated to Church groups, the Battered Women Association, the Gulf Coast
Conservation Club, the Gulfport Police Department, the Harrison County Sheriff's Department, the Gulfport American Legion, and many donations to needy people
only to name a few. In the last 12 years the Rodeo has avoided stockpiling fish in the Fish Bins.
All eatable fish are used or donated. Past Director and Weigh Master, Ken Ernst, developed this, decreasing spoilage and fish odor.
The Rodeo has backing from the News media, WLOX-TV, WXXV-TV, Radio, Sun Herald Newspaper, National Wide Sports Magazine, Mississippi Outdoors,
National Geographic, and the Department of Wildlife Fisheries & Parks to name a few. For
National recognition, the South Eastern Tourist Administration has awarded us as one of the Top 10 Events of the southeast section of our Country for 10 consecutive
years. This is a great honor, because Disney World is another recipient of this award. In the June 2004 edition of National Geographic, the Rodeo will be honored by
being chosen as one of the two greatest annual events in Mississippi.
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.
A Military Division was added to the Rodeo to give our Military Servicemen an even chance to compete in unfamiliar waters.
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  
msdfr1947@yahoo.com  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.
We are at year 64 now in Long Beach MS.
Left to right MDSFR Director VP Aaron Mcgill,MDSFR Director Capt.Gregy Frederico, MDSFR Director Richy Valdez, Asst Chief Alan Bond, Chief Wayne
McDowell, Mayor Billy Skellie, Asst Fire Chief Mike Brown, LB Harbor Master William Anbley and Sand Beach Director Chuck Loftis. We had a great Rodeo update
meeting. I love working with these guys. Long Beach Harbor June 29-July 4th
We will continue with our efforts to make the Mississippi Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo an outstanding State,
National, and World recognized annual Sport Fishing event.
Thank you for visiting our brief history of the Rodeo.
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