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Gym rat outdoors: Weekend shows at Tinley Park H.S. and Henry-Senachwine H.S.

Hitting the gyms for the Tinley Park Fishing Show and the Henry Decoy Show.

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Even with the opening of the new field house at Tinley Park High School, the Tinley Park Fishing Show packed the halls, gyms and shops.
Dale Bowman

I was a gym rat last weekend.

I spent Saturday morning at the 27th Tinley Park Fishing Show. On Sunday, I left before dawn to reach the 52nd Henry Decoy Show for the 8 a.m. opening, then raced home minutes ahead of the snow.

There’s a magic in what coordinator Rich Komar, the Tinley Park High School Athletic Association and many helping hands accomplish. I don’t write that lightly. A handful of schools have tried to follow the Tinley Park model and haven’t succeeded. At Tinley Park, booths/tables somehow are jammed into hallways, gyms and shops, then thousands pack in on a February weekend.

How can you not enjoy a show where boats are displayed in the automotive shop, next to a car on a lift? Where young women wheel carts of refreshments and lunch for booth holders? Where adult admission is $7? Where a table costs roughly 10 percent of what a big show charges?

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At the Tinley Park Fishing Show, even the automotive shop had boats crammed into it.
Dale Bowman

Years ago, I called it the best little show around Chicago. Komar, correctly, took it as a backhanded compliment. In reality, the Tinley Park show settles into a place with the Boat Show and the Schaumburg Show.

This year was different. The new fieldhouse opened up booth placement and walking space. I think some people missed the new big space.

Before the show, I wrote: ‘‘The Tinley Park show feels like it belongs to the people.’’

Since, more accurately, I think it respects and builds the outdoors community. I realized in walking the show Saturday that I have written about or worked with people in at least half the booths/tables.

There were people I just wanted to see, such as Jim Phillips. He’s a fisheries biologist for the Forest Preserves of Cook County, but he’s also an expert on damselflies and dragonflies and a hardcore birder. There was Larry Conn, Ken ‘‘The Lakefront Lip’’ Schneider, Tim Jacob and Jason Johns.

There were people I talked with about possible stories/outings: Dustin Murguia, Ken ‘‘Husker’’ O’Malley, Violet Talley, Bruce Caruso, Jim ‘‘The Crappie Professor’’ Kopjo, Jeff Wolfe, Angelo Garcia and Wally Klopp.

It’s the people show.

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Another gym view, this one of the Henry Decoy Show at the Henry-Senachwine High School.
Dale Bowman

• This was the first year I could do the Henry Decoy Show. I’m not a collector (I give collectibles to friends who are), but I’m fascinated by the art and craftsmanship in decoy-making.

At one table, I found ‘‘The Trapper’s Companion’’ in good shape and bought it. My dad passed his tattered copy of it to my younger brother and me when we started muskrat trapping a half-century ago. It disappeared years ago. I will send the copy to my younger brother, who collects.

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The 52nd Henry Decoy Show brought beauty, art and craftsmanship to the gym at Henry-Senachwine High School.
Dale Bowman

Wild things

The Great Backyard Bird Count, which runs Friday through Monday, should be extra-interesting this year in our area. It starts after what should be the coldest night of an extremely mild winter. More on the event is at gbbc.birdcount.org.

Stray cast

The White Sox’ season feels like planning a trip to the Boundary Waters. The Cubs’ season feels like plotting a visit to the petroglyphs of Newspaper Rock.