Fishing Rodeo casts wide net over community
GROSSE POINTE FARMS — Forget Hollywood studio wizardry — if you want to see a real special effect, come to the Grosse Pointe Farms and City Family Fishing Rodeo, a place where kids put down their smartphones and videogames for a couple of hours to go fishing.
“It does my heart good to see so many people out there involved in something that doesn’t involve electronics,” said Richard Graves Jr. of the Farms, the general chair and coordinator of the fishing rodeo. “They’re not texting — they’re fishing. It’s almost like going back in time.”
The 65th annual Grosse Pointe Farms and City Family Fishing Rodeo will take place, rain or shine, Aug. 10 at Pier Park in the Farms. It’s all free — even bait is available — and open to City and Farms boys and girls ages 17 and younger, with park passes. Anglers only need to bring their own fishing rods.
From 8-9 a.m., participants can enjoy complimentary coffee, juice and doughnuts. The fishing rodeo runs from 9-10 a.m. off of the pier. A lunch of hotdogs, chips and pop is served at 10 a.m., followed by an awards presentation and distribution of prizes at 10:30 a.m. Graves said everything is over by 11:30 a.m., leaving families the rest of the day for other activities.
“It’s the oldest and largest children’s event in Grosse Pointe,” Graves said. “So many of these events have fallen by the wayside … (but) ours keeps getting bigger and bigger.”
About 1,100 attend annually, including adults, but even when it rains, he said they still get around 900 people.
“They come with their raincoats and umbrellas because they know what a great event it is,” Graves said. In the event of rain, lunch and the awards ceremony are moved inside the Pier Park community building.
Trophies are presented to three children from the Farms and three from the City for the largest fish, largest game fish and first fish caught.
“They’re very large trophies — almost 4 feet tall,” Graves said. “They were (taller) than the kids, in some cases.”
But no one goes home empty-handed. Each participant receives a prize valued at $20-$30, and there’s a raffle for four mountain bikes, as well, Graves said. Even the adults are eligible for prizes, with complimentary raffle tickets for items like electronics and restaurant gift certificates, he said. They’ll be raffling off a couple of flat-screen televisions this year, too, Graves said.
“The sponsors have been really generous,” he said.
It’s those sponsors that have enabled organizers to host this event free of charge each year.
Little has changed in the fishing rodeo since Graves’ late father, Richard Graves Sr., launched the event with the assistance of a handful of police officers and firefighters from the City and Farms. Richard Graves Jr., now 62, wasn’t even born yet when this event started, nor were his brother and sister; he’s the oldest of his siblings. He said his brother and sister still help out with the rodeo.
Graves remembers how excited he was about attending the fishing rodeo when he was a boy, and it’s an excitement that continues to this day with the community’s youngsters.
“It’s a real family day, and people like that,” he said. “We’re seeing a rise in grandparents and aunts and uncles participating.”
The event is an example of the kind of cooperation the Pointes have had for years.
“Dick Graves does an excellent job each year putting on this event, and it is always great to see two communities come together to be able to share in this day,” said City Parks and Recreation Director Christopher Hardenbrook by email. “City residents look forward to this event and love the opportunity to share a day with Farms residents at Pier Park.”
Like Graves, many of the volunteers have been working at this event for decades. Graves said one of the volunteers, now in his 70s, still has a hat from the 1955 rodeo, and another man, who is 60, recalls fishing in it when he was only 5.
In an interview last year, 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.
For Graves, who collects prizes for the fishing rodeo year-round, coordinating this event “is just kind of part of my dad’s legacy. I grew up here. I fished in it as a kid,” he said.
Graves doesn’t have children of his own, but finds it “very gratifying” to see the smiling faces of youngsters as they catch their first fish or win a longed-for mountain bike.
This year’s fishing rodeo is a special anniversary, but it’s also a time to remember two of the people who also spent so much time over the years to make the event successful: Graves’ mother, Fay Graves, and Grosse Pointe Farms City Council member Joe Leonard, both of whom died last August. It’s the commitment of people like them that make Graves confident the fishing rodeo will one day celebrate its 100th anniversary.
“This community has a tremendous sense of tradition and spirit,” Graves said.
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.