Name a family from the suburbs on 'Family Feud' Feb. 25. Answer: The Bobeks
Growing up, the five Bobek siblings were immersed in their Polish heritage. Their parents spoke their native language in the home and they insisted each child learn the culture, and that began with music.
"There was no question in our house. We all learned to play the violin," says Jan Bobek of Bolingbrook, the middle of the five siblings -- including two from his mother's first marriage -- who now teaches music and orchestra at Willowbrook High School.
Turns out, their parents were right. Embracing their Polish roots has served them well. At an open casting call for the game show "Family Feud" -- held back in 2018 at the Schaumburg Convention Center -- the Bobeks looked for a way to stand out.
Showcasing their heritage by wearing authentic Highlander folk costumes from the southern region of Poland, where their family originated, and playing their instruments paid off.
The Bobeks were among those selected from more than 200 families that auditioned, to advance to the next round in Hollywood. The five siblings were flown to California for a three-day stay that ultimately ended with them competing on the show for the chance to win $20,000.
Their episode airs at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 25 on WPWR channel 50. They signed a nondisclosure contract and could not reveal how they did, but their time spent on the set with host Steve Harvey was a blast.
Besides Jan, the Bobek family includes Jeff Gal of Bartlett, Danuta Gal of Wood Dale, Matt Bobek of Harwood Heights and Dan Bobek of Chicago.
In all, their 22-minute episode took nearly two hours to shoot and included lots of banter with Harvey and the show staff. Yet Bobek expects that his family's introduction survived the cutting room floor, and it included the siblings playing some of their traditional music.
"Everyone, including Steve Harvey, was so welcoming," Jan Bobek says. "It's true what they say, that once you're on 'Family Feud,' you're part of the family. They're very supportive and want you to do well."
The Bobeks brought their stage presence with them. They perform in a family band called Kapela Hajducy, which translates to a band of brigands, or bandits, from a mountainous region. Jan Bobek likens them to the Polish version of Robin Hood and his Merry Men.
As a group, they perform regularly at the Polish Highlanders Alliance of North America, or the Highlander House, on Archer Avenue on Chicago's Southwest Side. However, they also play at private events.
Jan Bobek still plays his violin, while his siblings play the viola, stand-up bass and two on the tambourine, adding percussion.
Their name and colorful costumes reflect their heritage from the Highlanders region in Southern Poland, along the Tatra Mountains, where family members from both sides lived, and of which there is a strong cultural identity, particularly in the Chicago area.
"A big part of our identity is our culture," Jan Bobek says, "so it is nice to be able to represent our culture in front of a mainstream audience.
"The Highlanders survived incredible hardships over the years," he adds, "and their ability to overcome these hardships led to a feeling that they could do anything. They're just a people of great pride and tenacity."
The Bobeks embody those same values, as demonstrated by how they made it through several rounds of auditions to make it to national television.
"I know it's only a game show," Jan Bobek says, "but these Polish people made it to Hollywood."