Annual Connie Davis Fishing Rodeo is Saturday

The 32nd annual Connie Davis Fishing Rodeo will be held this Saturday, Aug. 23, at Camp Armstrong.

The event is for children ages 6 though 12 (each child must be accompanied by a parent or guardian).

Registration is from 6 to 7:15 a.m. Fishing goes from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. and young anglers will weigh in their catches from 10:30 to 11:15 a.m.

A free lunch will be provided at 11:15 a.m. and awards will be presented from 12:15 to 1:15 p.m. Prizes will be awarded in a variety of categories and each child should receive at least one. The three top boy and girl winners will each receive bicycles donated by BNA Bank, Renasant Bank and BancorpSouth.

The event, which has often drawn upwards of 100 participants, was founded by Tunney Pugh and is named for local resident Connie Davis, the first game warden ever hired by the Mississippi Game and Fish Commission in 1932. He worked for the Commission for 33 years until his retirement in 1965.

Several years ago, Virginia Wilson, Joe Pugh and Lewis Rosenthal put together a brief history of what led to the fishing rodeo:

“Sometime in the early 1950s Davis started taking kids from New Albany and Union County to the Mid-South Fishing Rodeo in Memphis. With the help of the local newspaper and word of mouth, news would spread about the date and time of this event. Connie would arrange to have a school bus parked in the middle of town on this particular date and they would load up and attend this fishing rodeo. This was one of the many highlights of his life and this practice continued for several years, until near his retirement. A change in the regulations on the use of state property caused this venture to be discontinued.

“Connie had the support of the community in doing this for kids. He had assistance in this. Some of the people who assisted him were: Jack Lewellen, a fellow game warden (the terminology now is Conservation Officer); Joan Maxey; Gwen Kirkpatrick and Mable Nabors, all now deceased. Also, Connie Davis died in August 1968.

“Another one of Connie’s projects was to see that Union County had good representation at Boy’s Conservation School. This was an event sponsored by the Game and Fish Commission, Soil Conservation Service and the Forest Service. Each county in the state was allowed to send four boys to this school. They were taught conservation principles in four areas: fish and wildlife, forestry, soil and water. Then at the end of the week each was given a test and the county whose boys scored the most points won the event. This school continued for some 18 years and for whatever reasons was discontinued. The boys from Union County won this event for 17 straight years. The last year of the school’s existence Union County came in second.

“In 1982 New Albany resident Tunney Pugh came up with the idea that a fishing rodeo in memory of Connie Davis was in order. Tunney called a meeting with the following: Fred Stone, James H. Delgadillo, Thurman McMillen, Burnail Goolsby and Lewis Rosenthal. Thus the Connie Davis Memorial Fishing Rodeo was on its way. Over the years the numbers and members of the committee have changed. The number of kids participating each year has steadily increased.

“Since the beginning or the early years as some of the older committee members say, New Albany and Union County have given enormous support by participation and financial support as well. The family of Tunney Pugh have been heavily involved by serving on the committee and by supporting it with financial support too. Tunney Pugh died in May 1990.

“Connie Davis and Willie Ferguson Davis had two daughters, Mrs. Edith Davis Millsaps of Starkville and Mrs. Virginia Davis Wilson of New Albany. Those two ladies have always been strong supporters of this fishing rodeo.

“The above will give you some idea who and what kind of person Connie Davis was and what he stood for. One of the highlights of the participation in the Mid-South Fishing Rodeo was in 1957. Joe Pugh was the overall winner of this event. They say Connie Davis could not have been more proud of this than if he had just been elected President of the United States of America.”

To get to Camp Armstrong from New Albany, drive on Hwy. 178 East, then turn left on CR 254 in the bottom before you get to New Harmony hill. After you cross the railroad tracks turn right on CR 278 then left on CR 214 just before the sharp curve and railroad overpass. The entrance to Camp Armstrong will be marked on the left.

For directions or information, one may also call 662-316-9574, 662-538-1502 or 662-538-3697.