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Gun show returns with a bang

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Darren Barnstable takes aim with a Barrett Model 99 firearm that was on display.

Estevan went more than 30 years without having a gun show.

It's a given that it won't be another 30 years before the next one comes to the city.

The Estevan Wildlife Federation hosted a gun show at the Wylie-Mitchell building March 29 and 30, and according to event organizers Lionel Bender and Kevin Thompson, the exhibitors who attended the event were thrilled with the attendance and their sales figures, while the public was impressed with the selection of firearms.

An estimated crowd of 1,500 people attended the show. About 1,000 people came on the first day, and most of them showed up in the first few hours.

"I was very pleased with the turnout," Thompson told Lifestyles. "I was very happy with everybody who came down and showed support."

Bender said it exceeded his expectations.

"On Saturday (the 29th), it was just jam-packed in there," said Bender. "You couldn't move. A lot of people came in, took a look and said 'We'll come back later or tomorrow.' It was packed, and we left plenty of room (for people to walk).

"There were a few who said we could have tightened it up before it started (to have more tables), and I said 'No, I want to leave plenty of room,' and thank God we did," Bender continued.

There were 86 tables booked for the show. Many of the exhibitors had several tables. And there were at least 1,500 firearms on display.

Not only did the event draw an enormous crowd, but many of the people who attended were eager to spend money.

"If you don't have the public willing to purchase, the vendors won't be back," said Bender. "After the first evening, we knew that a lot of people had come through the first day, and that this would be an annual event."

Numerous vendors who wanted to be part of the event had to be turned away. Thompson said they had enough interest to have 160 to 170 tables.

Feedback has been tremendous, they said. Most of the exhibitors sold about half their inventory.

"They were all pleased with what was there, and they're all coming back next year," said Bender.

And the public was equally thrilled with the selection. Options ranged from pellet guns to high-end firearms.

Thompson noted that several members of the Estevan RCMP conducted a walk-through during the show, and offered their approval.

"We knew we'd done something right (at that point), as all three of them stopped and said 'We hope you have it again next year,'" said Bender.

Firearms weren't the only commodities available. A variety of knife makers came to Estevan. One vendor was selling leather goods. Taxidermists and a meat company were also present.

"One of the things that we heard from the vendors was that at other shows, there is no demand for archery equipment," said Bender. "They were totally shocked that the public here wants archery equipment. Two of them are bringing it next year."

Only one archery bow was for sale, and it was gobbled up in about 10 minutes.

Bender and Thompson have vowed that the show will be returning next year. It'll be held on the last weekend of March. And it'll be in the Wylie-Mitchell building once again, although a few more tables might be set up.

Proceeds from this year's gun show will be directed towards the EWF's new pistol range and building. Bender said the gun show raised a little more than $19,000 in net proceeds, and that will cover most of the costs associated with the range.


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