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The Children's Fishing Contest


Nineteen years ago Dick Schambach had an idea - let's have a junior fishing derby for all the children in the area. We will hold it at Honk Lake and give out prizes and refreshments. By encouraging children to fish, we will perpetuate the sport and benefit both the youngsters and the outdoor sports. The whole club agreed and in no time at all, Dick, being a natural salesman and promoter, had the project humming along.

Local merchants were approached for their support and they were generous in their giving. At that time the tackle companies were giving out freebies and Dick contacted all of them and got loads of goodies. As a matter of fact, in the first few years we had so much stuff we gave everyone, whether they caught a fish or not, a prize of some sort.

Soon, reality and economics reared their ugly heads and we had to cut back on the prizes as times got tough and merchants tightened up their cash flow. About this time, due to personal reasons, Dick had to retire as head of the project.
The club and the children of this area got lucky. In stepped Tom Davis. Tom, a quiet yet forceful man took over the job and much to the delight of everyone put new life and force into the yearly event. Tom arranged the prize .distribution so that the main prizes were given out only to the youngsters who caught the larger fish. Others, who fished and didn't win big prizes, got small prizes. Nevertheless, everyone got some kind of prize.

Tom personally contacted dozens of businesses and dozens of tackle manufacturers. The big companies turned him down, but he didn't slow down his work. He just worked harder at getting contributions and reorganizing the contest. He even convinced his own union, the United Steel Workers, to give a generous annual donation to the fishing contest fund; something they continue to do today. Under his guidance the contest ran smoothly and the volunteer workers and the youngsters were happier than ever. However, fate sometimes delivers us a blow that is overwhelming and impossible to overcome. Tom, our quiet, strong, effective and compassionate leader passed away. The shock was great to all of us and the loss to the area's children was beyond measure. The future of the contest was in doubt, for who could fill Tom's shoes? At this juncture Gary Lonstein hesitatingly stepped up to the plate.

Three years ago he stepped into the role of honcho for the fishing contest which, in deference to the great work done by Tom Davis, was now called the "Tom Davis Memorial Children's Fishing Contest". Continuing the good work that Tom had organized, Gary made a few small changes but didn't have to change much that Tom had set up with his crew of volunteers.

The big changes that occurred in the contest were basically set up by Tom Davis. We now have the pond at Lippman Park in the Town of Wawarsing for ourselves every year at the same time. By having it there, we have better control over the contestants while they are fishing and can organize the food and prize awards ceremony so that everything goes off in a limited area and shorter period of time.

Now, every child that enters gets a brown paper bag with a few small prizes, some candy and a ticket good for a hot dog and soda at lunchtime. At that time the prizes are awarded and then everybody goes home happy and satisfied. Not coincidentally, the youngsters are so happy about fishing that they want to do more of it without the contest - what more can we ask?

None of this can go on without the help of the main club and the greatest crew of volunteers in the world. To be the leader of this contest is easy when you have a crew that believes in perpetuating the sport of fishing and wants to help all the children have a good time. They truly want to share their good fortune with the children. That is the true spirit of volunteerism that the politicians talk about. Many of the 50-50 winners donate their prize money to the contest. Quite a few people just come up and donate cash so that the children can have nice prizes. The generosity shown by these club members is astounding.

A partial list of the volunteers from 1997 and earlier years consists of a who's who of the best people in the sportsworld. Thanks and God Bless you to: Marianne Lang, John Lang, Marty Lonstein, Paul Lonstein, Bill McCabe, Kay McCabe, Gary Pomerantz, Bob Pomerantz, Holger Anderson, John Whitney, John Gottlieb, Marcial Cruz, Evelyn Rodriguez, Don Mekulik, Kyle Mekulik, Fred Wiedemann, Mary Wiedemann, Glen Bollin, Larry Manolini, Gerald Van Natta, Gail Van Natta, Glen Pomerantz and Esther Pomerantz.
Hopefully, nobody has been left out - if so, it was by accident, not design.

All in all, judged by any standards, the fishing contest, spawned nearly 20 years ago has been a resounding success. Anyone stopping by Lippman Park in nice weather will see lots of children and parents fishing in the park. Many parents who avidly fish now, will freely admit they got hooked on fishing as a kid by our contests. The club can be proud of it's achievements in this area.

By Gary Lonstein with Thanks to Ida Besdesky & Mrs. Townsend


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Wawarsing Rod & Gun Club             PO Box 305 Napanoch, NY 12458