An icy relationship over the winter with the Gulfport City Council weighed heavily on fishing rodeo organizers. For the first time in 56 years, the rodeo had to pay $250 a day to rent Rice Pavilion.
"We didn't like it," fishing rodeo president Chuck Dedeaux said. "But we just had to pay, and change up some other things."
The biggest change had nothing to do with fish. To balance its budget, the Mississippi Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo dropped its sponsorship of Gulfport's holiday fireworks show.
"When the rent came up, we just decided to not shoot them at all until we got back on our feet later on," said Dedeaux.
The city found a group of private investors to pay for the July 3rd pyrotechnic show.
The fight with the city threatened to cast a dark shadow over this year's rodeo. However, thanks to an article in Sports Illustrated, dark clouds turned into bright sunshine.
Weighmaster Mark Wright read the story's headline.
"The annual Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo in Gulfport is the largest, and in some ways strangest, tournament of its kind," it said.
Wright's job is to weigh the fish entered in the annual competition. During a break, he weighed the magnitude of the SI article on his organization.
"It blew me away. I couldn't believe it," he said. "Now the country knows, even parts of the world know that we're here."
Melinda Farrell sat at a table just feet from the scale. Her job was to post fishing records on the rodeo's display board. As she skimmed the SI article, she said, "We do a lot down here. And it's just real good for the rodeo."
And rodeo organizers say what's good for the rodeo is good for the 5,000 fishermen who spend every fourth of July putting their catch on ice.