Hundreds of kids and their family members take part in last year’s 70th annual Grosse Pointe Farms and City Family Fishing Rodeo at Pier Park in the Farms. This year’s event will take place Aug. 10 at Pier Park.

Hundreds of kids and their family members take part in last year’s 70th annual Grosse Pointe Farms and City Family Fishing Rodeo at Pier Park in the Farms. This year’s event will take place Aug. 10 at Pier Park.

File photo by Sarah Purlee

Tradition lures fishing rodeo participants year after year

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published July 30, 2019

GROSSE POINTE FARMS — We’ve become wary of the word “free.” The promise of free anything seems to almost never come without some strings attached.

But the 71st annual Grosse Pointe Farms and City Family Fishing Rodeo — Aug. 10 at Pier Park in the Farms — is the exception to that cynical rule. The event, which will take place rain or shine, is completely without cost — there’s even complimentary bait available.

It’s open to City and Farms boys and girls ages 17 and younger, with park passes, and participants only need to bring their own fishing rods. There are no forms or registration, every child gets a prize, and even raffle tickets for kids and adults are complimentary. Richard “Dick” Graves Jr., of Grosse Pointe Farms, the general coordinator and chair of the fishing rodeo, said people just need to show up.

From 8 to 9 a.m., participants can enjoy complimentary coffee, juice and doughnuts. The fishing rodeo itself will run from 9 to 10 a.m. off the pier. A lunch of hot dogs, chips and pop will be served at 10 a.m., followed by an awards presentation and the 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.

Since 2014, even kids who don’t want to fish are welcome, and the non-anglers get a prize as well. Graves said each of the prizes is worth about $20 to $30, and he gets toys and other fun items for youngsters of all ages. Those who aren’t fishing can come later, at 9:30 a.m. — unless they want to have breakfast at 8 a.m.

Graves said 2018 was another record year for attendance, with more than 1,500 adults and kids on hand. That far surpassed the previous record of 1,357, set in 2016.

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, including police officer Joe Miller.

Richard Graves Jr., now 68, wasn’t born yet when this event started, and he has been organizing the event since his father’s death in 1986. Even before then, Graves said he used to help his dad with the event, and as a boy himself, he fondly recalls how much he looked forward to the fishing rodeo each year. He said he loved seeing the table of prizes when he was a boy, and now he loves seeing the kids who are as awestruck as he was.

“Grosse Pointe is a (community) of traditions,” Graves said in an email interview.

Graves spends countless hours year-round purchasing prizes and securing sponsors for the rodeo, because this event means so much to him.

“It’s carrying on our family legacy of my father, his brother and the Grosse Pointe (public safety officers), all of whom love children,” he said.

Kevin Crowther, who owns a carpet store that bears his name, is one of the longtime fishing rodeo sponsors.

“In my opinion, it’s the best event held in Grosse Pointe annually,” he said. “It takes me back to my childhood, when they used to have the Fireman’s Field Day at the Neighborhood Club. … The kids get a chance to have fun and be with their families.”

The Fireman’s Field Day and many other popular events of yesteryear are now just memories, making the fishing rodeo the largest longtime event in the Pointes.

“The fishing rodeo is the most cherished summer event at the Pier Park,” Farms Mayor Louis Theros said by email. “The years of support from the English family, the rodeo’s sponsors and the efforts of Dick Graves are almost unparalleled. Words cannot thank them enough. My first rodeo was with our oldest son, Jon, and my now deceased father. My dad loved to fish, and just being there with him and his grandson is a cherished memory. And to top it off, Jon caught a fish that was almost as big as he was! I still have the picture in my office. I encourage everyone to bring their sons and daughters, grandparents, etc. to create their own special memories.”

Besides free food and fun, there are thousands of dollars worth of raffle prizes for adults, and several lucky boys and girls will win free bikes through a raffle.

If you don’t have kids, you can still participate.

“Volunteers are welcome and needed,” Graves said, noting that they should plan on arriving by 7 a.m. and will be done by 11:30 a.m. “(It’s a) very gratifying experience, as communicated to me by current volunteers!”

Pier Park is located at 350 Lake Shore Road, at the foot of Moross Road. No advance registration is required for this event. For more information or to volunteer, call Farms Parks and Recreation at (313) 343-2405.