About four years ago, a lout I know once said, “Pat Ehlers is all about Pat Ehlers,” and he meant it in a smug and snotty way. But the lout was wrong. Very wrong. Pat Ehlers is about giving back to the community, not just the fishing community but the community at large.
While most promoters would rent a theatre, sell tickets and collect a profit from the sale of tickets and raffle tickets, Pat will have none of that.
So this year’s International Fly Fishing Film Festival, the fourth one that I’ve worked on with Pat, raised a fair sum of money. Now this isn’t just some, come to this theatre film festival, this one is held at Sprecher’s Brewery in Milwaukee. Sprecher’s is kind enough to donate space and much more to make this happen, so the next time you buy Sprecher’s beer or root-beer, raise your glass and give them a toast. They’re a fantastic group of good people from the front office to the guy who drives the fork lift and has to move pallets and cases of beer out of the way.
Once the area is cleared and scrubbed. A screen and PA system go up, chairs are brought in, goody bags are made up (and they contain beer and a beer glass - so it’s truly a goody bag), donations come in from manufacturers like Simms, Buff, Scott, Airflo, Echo, and Smith and they’re organized into stacks for the raffles. Cards are sold for the special raffle like a wonderful painting or a rod, reel and line combo. Pizzas are sold and even they’re donated to the cause!
The doors open early and the Veterans are brought in and given a front row seat. Pat has a soft spot for Veterans and honors them whenever possible. A few minutes later at 6:30 the doors officially open and people find their seats and goody bags. Once people are seated, Pat starts the first set of raffle drawings. At a little after 7:00 the films are started and run till intermission, when the final raffle tickets are drawn and the last of the films are run.
Then it’s clean-up and tear down. Chairs are packed and placed on pallets. Screen, trusses and drapes are folded and packed away. Sound system gets put into cases and cables get coiled and packed into boxes.
Pat sits down next to me on a pallet to catch his breath. I sit and coil a cable.
“Well Pat, how’d you do tonight?”
“We did well, not as much as I wanted to raise but we did well and it was good to see the Vets here and we certainly had a good crew of volunteers. You get a beer and pizza?”
“Hang on, I’ll be right back.”
He brings me a glass of beer and a whole pizza.
“What did you think of the films?”
“I saw them from the backside, you know, all left handed casters. What’d you think?”
“Didn’t have a lot of time to watch them. Any warm water ones?”
“Maybe next year. I’m going to try and hit the ten grand mark, be good to help the Vets and TU. Now finish your beer and pizza, you’ve got a drive ahead of you.”
I finished up with the cables, packed my car and there was Pat.
“Thanks man, we couldn’t do it without you,” Now Pat’s not really a guy who gives hugs but he gave me one, a good man hug.
So what did I think of the films? Does it really matter? What I know is that Pat Ehlers is a good man with a great heart. His passion is for fishing and for the men and women who serve this country. His concern for the land we fish and how we care for it is evident in the way he runs his life and his business.
Now that’s the Pat Ehlers I know.
Stuart Van Dorn