53rd Bill Hargreaves Fishing Rodeo June 13-16 at Grande Lagoon Yacht Club

53rd Bill Hargreaves Fishing Rodeo June 13-16 at Grande Lagoon Yacht Club
By Fran Thompson
The Bill Hargreaves Fishing Rodeo started on Mother’s Day in 1971. There were 18 anglers.
Roberta Kent knows this because she was there.
Currently co-chair of the annual event with her husband Kent, Roberta was there in support of the rodeo’s founder and namesake, who happens to be her father.
“I didn’t live up here then, but I came up every year,’’ Roberta said. “And it has always been about the kids. It’s about watching the kids have fun and keeping dad’s memory alive.
“That’s what makes this so special. If it were not for the kids, there would be no point. It’s not about catching big fish,’’ she added.
Hargreaves believed that involving both parents and children in a family fishing event would strengthen the family unit as a whole and that would keep children from turning to drugs.
“I thought if I could get to them before they got involved in that stuff, that would be the thing to do,” he said.
The rodeo event was changed to Father’s Day weekend in the late 1980’s, and planning now starts in early January. It takes about a dozen volunteers working hundreds of hours to make the tourney happen.
“So many people volunteer and are so many others are donors every year, and, of course, we couldn’t do it without the tremendous support from the Grande Lagoon Yacht Club,’’ Roberta said. “It really is awesome see a bunch of people come together for each year.’
Hargreaves started the rodeo as a way to fight the war on drugs in this country. Bill thought that a fishing rodeo would be a good family event to promote what was then a Kiwanis Club of Big Lagoon initiative.
The entry fee that first year was 25 cents and the tourney proceeds added up to only $12.50. From that very humble beginning, the Hargreaves Rodeo continues to grow.
It is now a four-day event, starting with the June 13 captains’ meeting. Anglers fish and weigh-in their catch on Friday (5-8 p.m.) and Saturday (4-8 p.m.), and the event ends with a Sunday fish-fry from 11:30 – 2 p.m. and the 2 p.m. awards ceremony.
Fish fry ticket holders are eligible for door prize drawings. Fish-fry tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children. All events are held at Grande Lagoon Yacht Club.
Prizes are presented to the King & Queen (largest open division fish by male & female), Prince & Princess (largest junior division fish by male & female), and youngest boy and girl. As is a longstanding tradition, the junior angler catching the larget croaker will win a fishing kayak.
Thanks to its sponsors, the tourney includes cash awards totaling $7,200 in 12 different open categories. But more important to the tourney’s founding theme are the 30 fish categories in the junior division. The Hargreaves Rodeo awards the most prizes to junior anglers of any rodeo on the Gulf Coast.
There is no charge for children to fish in the tourney and that combined with the adult charge of $30 per angler, rodeo entry is affordable for all.
Robert Turpin, manager of Escambia County’s Marine Resources Division, has volunteered as the weigh-in master for the past 30 years and GLYC Commodore Terry Smith will be the awards ceremony MC.
Bill Hargreaves, Jr., who lives in Margate, will also be part of the festivities.
“We used to use the fish from the tourney for the fish-fry, if people wanted to donate them. We spent a lot of time fileting fish,’’ Roberta said.
“Now we actually buy the fish and if anybody wants to leave their fish in the cooler, Robert will take them back to Fish & Wildlife and feed them to the critters down there.’’
Roberta said her father would be proud that the rodeo he started to give children a special day is still going strong 53 years later.
“Without all the people coming together and helping, we couldn’t have this event,’’ she said.
For more tourney info or to register, visit billhargreavesfishingrodeo.com.
Pictured: Bill Hargreaves at the 1999 Hargreaves Rodeo and fishing with his grandson, Robert Kimball.