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Chicago Boat, RV &

Outdoors Show turns 75

The Chicago Boat, RV & Outdoors Show is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year with a look back at what is for many in the region, a family tradition.

From its humble beginnings at Navy Pier in 1930 as the Motor Boat Mart, the show has continued to grow and change to match the culture and economy of Chicago. Midwest families visiting today’s version of the show have a chance to escape winter for a while to view, board and buy boats, RVs and vacation packages to plan their summer fun.

The show has also boasted the attendance of famous athletes, business leaders and politicians such as former Mayor Richard J. Daley with his young sons — including the current mayor, Richard M. Daley. Past visitors also include Jane Finch of the Chicago Hustle; Olympic gold medalist, Bruce Jenner; and Chicago Cubs player Dave Kingman.

Popular show traditions include the Huck Finn Trout Pond, where multiple generations have experienced the thrill of reeling in a fish. The Miss Dreamboat competition started at the inception of the show in the 1930s, and continued into the 1970s with many young women vying for the title. The annual boat parade featured boats and RVs “cruising” down Michigan Avenue, leading the way to the show.

The 75th anniversary will be commemorated at the start of this year’s show, set for Jan. 19-23 at McCormick Place. For more history of the past 75 years, featuring hundreds of photos and press clippings, visit

Plant accident kills Mercury employee

Mercury Marine employee Dwayne Shepro died following a Dec. 4 accident at the company’s Fond du Lac, Wis., plant.

“It’s a sad deal,” Mercury spokesman Steve Fleming said. “He’d been here 40 years. He was a good guy; extremely well liked. Everybody said he did a good job.”

The death was the first at the Mercury plant.

Fleming said the 59-year-old Shepro was injured when a board he was sawing broke away from the machine, and hit him in the abdomen.

“An investigation of the scene showed a guard had been removed from the machine on which Mr. Shepro was believed to have been working,” said Fleming. “This appears to have been a preventable accident had the safety mechanisms available been in place and used.”

After he complained that he wasn’t feeling well, emergency personnel transported Shepro to St. Agnes Hospital shortly before noon, where he died about 45 minutes later, according to a report in the Fond du Lac Reporter. Autopsy results confirmed that he died from internal bleeding caused by blunt force trauma.

New marine dealer for Twin City metro area

Crystal-Pierz Marine announced plans to open a store in Hastings, Minn., some time in 2005. The building was previously owned and operated by Anchor Marine and is comparable in size to Crystal-Pierz Marine’s current stores. The Hastings store will be located on Margo Avenue South just off Highway 61. The company also recently announced the opening of a Rogers, Minn., “superstore” in January 2005.

The new store will offer boat brands Crestliner, Glastron, Bennington, Ranger, Stratos and Centurion, as well as Crystal-Pierz Marine’s Urgent Care service, a program that offers “drive-through” same-day repair diagnosis.

Six Ontario marinas

win eco-awards

The Ontario Marine Operator’s Association presented six marinas with the Five Green Leaf Anchor Eco-Rating as part of the organization’s Clean Marine Green Leaf Eco-Rating Program.

The top achievers are Beacon Bay Marina, Centre Point Landing, Fifty Point Marina, Hot Knots Landing, LaSalle Park Marina and South Bay Cove.

“This is a voluntary program, and these businesses should be congratulated for their efforts,” said Bob Eaton, director of environmental services for OMOA, in a statement.

Eco Ratings are achieved in an audit covering more than 200 environmental practices, including environmental management and policies, water quality and habitat preservation, hazardous substance handling/reduction, energy efficiency, water conservation and reduction.

Fake-death swindler snared in bank fraud

The man who faked his own death in a 2003 boating accident in Galveston Bay, Texas, faces federal charges of bank fraud in connection with a $4 million loan.

Larry Michael Nixon, 55, disappeared for several months after his 40-foot go-fast boat, Living Extra Fast, collided with a barge in the Houston shipping channel Aug. 27, 2003 (Soundings, April 2004). Authorities say Nixon, who had a penchant for fast boats, staged the accident, and that his company, Delta Crane in Houston, Texas, was in debt for $4 million to $5 million. Nixon was found in January 2004 living in Weatherford, Texas, under an assumed name. He was arrested then on an unrelated felony fraud warrant from West Virginia.

U.S. Marshals arrested Nixon Nov. 16 upon his release from state custody, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice. He was returned to Houston to face the criminal charge filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, based on an FBI investigation.

Federal authorities say Nixon’s company was issued a $4 million line of credit by Minnwest Bank Center in Montevideo, Minn., to buy used cranes. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Houston, Nixon was required to submit the invoice containing a description and serial numbers of the cranes purchased. However, according to the prosecutors, Nixon conspired with another company, Rhino Machinery and Rental, and provided false information to the bank on several occasions beginning in 2002 through February 2003.

Specifically, according to authorities, Nixon sent a letter to MinnWest Bank on Feb. 28, 2003, requesting a wire transfer of $380,000 to Rhino Machinery in Sealy, Texas, as payment for the purchase of a 1982 Link belt crane. The bank wired the money to Rhino, which transferred the money (minus a commission) to Nixon’s business account.

Officials at the bank reportedly became suspicious of several transactions after an independent inspector was unable to verify the purchases, and had difficulty reaching Nixon.

No date for a Houston court appearance has been set as yet.

— JoAnn W. Goddard