Bill Konyk, the beloved, perogy-dealing fixture of the Pacific National Exhibition, has died aged 88.
Better known as “Hunky Bill,” Konyk dished out his trademark Ukrainian-style perogies from his station at the exhibition in Vancouver’s Hastings Park for 52 years. The PNE confirmed his death in a statement on Wednesday.
“It is with incredible sadness that the Pacific National Exhibition acknowledges the passing of one of our longest standing concessionaires and iconic members of our Fair family, Bill Konyk, known across the Canadian fair industry as Hunky Bill,” the statement read.
“Bill passed away peacefully last night, surrounded by his family.”
Konyk’s reign at the PNE began as an impulse in 1967. Someone bet him $10 he couldn’t get a booth at the exhibition, so Konyk went down to the fair and begged for one. Staff were eventually convinced and Konyk, having won his place without a plan, made it up as he went.
In an interview with CBC News celebrating his 45th anniversary at the fair in 2011, Konyk said he had technically retired but couldn’t stay away.
He said he still loved making perogies and served customers in a volunteer-like role, having passed the institution down to his children and grandchildren.
“I want to keep moving so [death] can’t catch me,” Konyk told the Vancouver Sun in 2006. “If you sit down and lay back, the old man upstairs says, ‘Well, he doesn’t want to do anything more constructive, it’s time for him to come upstairs.
“I always thought I wanted to have my ashes spread somewhere in [my hometown of] Winnipeg … But now I think I’d probably have them spread around Hastings Park,” he added in the newspaper interview.
The statement from the PNE said Konyk’s wife, Kay, and sons, Bill Jr., Clayton and Mark, will “continue on the tradition of serving the best Ukrainian food in the city.”
This year’s Fair at the PNE opens Saturday.