Gambling boats killed Las Vegas Nights as fundraisers in Illinois.
They also spawned the Tinley Park Fishing Show.
That tidbit came last week while talking to Rich Komar, show manager since the beginning in 1992 in a gym at Tinley Park High School.
The benefit for the Tinley Park Athletic Booster Club grew to sprawl across halls, gyms, shops, the pool and cafeteria. In its 30th year, the show was going to take over the entire field house the second weekend in February.
But, on Dec. 17, the announcement came of cancellation because of COVID concerns.
This was going to be the last hurrah for Komar, a retired meat wholesaler who winters in Arizona. The show’s future is unknown.
“My legacy is going to end with a COVID stop,” Komar said. “We had a lot of great years. My big thing was the friendships started through this show, so many people in the industry that you like seeing and talking to for the weekend.”
Larry Conn was one.
“Rich and I became the closest of friends over the 28 years that I helped him and his crew with the show,” emailed Conn, regional sales manager, marine, for Garmin.
They grew close enough to tournament fish together. Conn filled many roles: announcer of speakers, presenter on walleye topics and electronics, in charge of auctioning in the boat-sales area and muscle on the rare occasions security was needed.
Komar, “the GM of the football program,” did announcing for many sports at the high school.
“My passion was the football team,” Komar said. “I liked to hang out with them and do the stats for them.”
Both his stepsons played there, then in college.
“Thing I am most happy about, everything went directly back to the kids,” Komar said.
The show funded such things as trophy cases, grants, weight rooms and uniforms.
“I love the passion of the show and what it did for the kids,” Komar said. “I liked that a lot of kids came back and helped.”
One is Steve Silic, fisheries biologist for the Forest Preserves of Cook County.
“On a more personal note, my history with the show began as a student at Tinley Park High School, where to me, it was a fundraiser that I was required to work each year,” he emailed. “Even as a lowly HS student volunteer, I was impressed and fascinated with the magnitude of the show, and always had fun working it. To be a vendor at the show over the past 15 years has been a real honor.”
The Forest Preserves fisheries section, which had a booth annually, assisted with the trout pond for many years, and provided speakers.
“Getting to know and work with Rich Komar has shown how much good work a person can do, especially when they have a great team around them,” Silic emailed. “The pride and professional manner in which Rich and his team pull together for the common goal of providing a great show is displayed in the quality of the show, and in the incredible success that it has become, not only for the general public, but for the vendors that attend it.”
Bruce Caruso agreed, texting, “Perch America always considered the Tinley Park Fishing Show one of the best shows around. It was more of a personal show because we always saw and talked to fisherman that fished the southern basin of Lake Michigan and Wolf Lake.”
As for Conn, he noted, “I think that this show, of all the shows, marked the beginning of the fishing season for me and that open water was not far off.”