Grosse Pointe Farms, Grosse Pointe CityAugust 9, 2012
After 60-plus years, fishing rodeo still reels in parents and kids
By K. Michelle Moran
C & G Staff Writer
Over the last six decades, the Grosse Pointe Farms and City Family Fishing Rodeo has “wormed” its way into the hearts of generations of young people.
It’s a beloved summer activity that continues, largely un-changed, to this day. On Aug. 11, City and Farms boys and girls ages 17 and under are invited to Pier Park to the 65th annual fishing rodeo. The event takes place rain or shine, and everything is free. With complimentary bait available, participants only need to bring their own fishing rods.
Participants should also bring their park passes for admission. A breakfast of coffee, juice and doughnuts is served during registration from 8-9 a.m., with fishing off the pier from 9-10 a.m. A lunch of hot dogs, chips and pop is served at 10 a.m., and awards and prizes are distributed at 10:30 a.m.
Richard Graves Jr. of the Farms, the general chair and coordinator of the fishing rodeo, is carrying on a tradition started by his father, Richard Graves Sr., along with a handful of police officers and firefighters from the City and Farms.
“I went to it when I was a little kid,” said Graves, recalling the excitement that built in the weeks leading up to the fishing rodeo. “We would just wait all year for it.”
Although kids receive special honors for the biggest catch and other notable achievements, no one goes home empty handed. Graves makes sure of that, spending all year purchasing prizes with retail values of about $20-$30 apiece for every young angler. Graves said one of his fondest memories of the fishing rodeos when he was a boy was walking past the tables of prizes and seeing something he hoped to take home; one year, he said he got an expensive fishing reel he’d had his eye on since he saw it early that morning.
There’s also about $2,000 worth of prizes for adults and four mountain bikes for kids that get raffled off, he said. There’s no charge for the raffle — it’s just something participants automatically register for when they arrive, Graves explained.
“It is totally free,” he said. “There’s no charge for anything.”
The fishing rodeo draws about 1,100 participants each year.
“It’s now the oldest and largest (continuous) children’s event in the Grosse Pointes,” he said. “Six hundred kids can create a lot of energy. And the beauty of it is, it’s non-electronic energy. It’s good, old-fashioned fun. And we see a lot of parents (and) grandparents.”
Farms Parks and Recreation Director Richard Huhn said the fishing rodeo has become a draw for multiple generations.
“It’s a very nice event,” he said. “A lot of parents want their kids to have that experience because they remember it” from their own childhoods.
Graves concurred, saying it’s common for grandparents to show their grandchildren how to bait a hook the way they once taught their own children. In today’s fast-paced world of instant messaging and Twitter, the fishing rodeo is a chance to return to a simpler time and simpler pleasures, if only for a couple of hours.
“It’s fun to walk around (the park) that day to see all those people interacting, not texting, not communicating electronically,” Graves said.
Local families and businesses sponsor the event, making it possible to offer everything from prizes to food to even bait for free, he said.
“It’s a very traditional event,” he said. “We want to keep it going.”
If it rains, Graves said, they’ll have lunch and the awards ceremony inside the Pier Park community recreation building, but the fishing will go on outside, of course. Even downpours have failed to keep the crowds away; some anglers say the fishing is actually better when it’s raining.
Pier Park is located at the foot of Moross and Lake St. Clair. No advance registration is required for this event. For more information, call Farms Parks and Recreation at (313) 343-2405.
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