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Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Concern over efforts to establish more stringent gun laws has resulted in record gun sales and a demand for ammunition that outpaces the supply. It also has pumped unprecedented amounts of money into state wildlife agencies through an excise tax on guns, ammo and other hunting and shooting equipment.
But there's more. It has helped boost turn-away crowds at Friends of the NRA banquets in many parts of the country. These are food, fun, fellowship and fundraising events that support NRA programs, especially local youth shooting ventures and firearm ranges.
One of the best of the bunch is the Roanoke Valley Friends of NRA event, which is the top fundraiser of its kind in Virginia. It has scheduled a banquet Aug. 24 at the Salem Civic Center.
Interest is so high that banquet co-chairman Al Milton instructed the civic center to relocate the annual event from the community room, where it has been held in the past, to the much larger arena. The banquet pretty well has been filling the community room during recent years, so the idea was to make space for an expected record attendance in excess of 300.
Somehow Milton's request went awry and the arena was not reserved. So it is back to the community room.
That's not all bad, because the community room has a proven track record of producing quality, well attended banquets. Even so, all parties were upset with what happened. Banquet officials already had sent a notice to potential supporters stating: "We are moving from the banquet room to the main civic center floor. This provides our attendees more space, comfort and room for future growth."
Carey Harveycutter, Jr., director of civic facilities for the City of Salem, dispatched a note of apology.
"I am truly sorry for this situation and offer my fullest apology. Please know that Al (Milton) already has the contract in hand for the larger space in 2014," he said.
None of this means that the Roanoke Valley Friends of the NRA won't be able to put on a stellar banquet. What it means, you'd better buy your ticket early because there is going to be competition for the 25 firearms that will be made available to participants through drawings, raffles and the like. They include a 2013 Friends of NRA Gun of the Year, a .270 Weatherby Vanguard Series 2, one of 1,200 made exclusively for this program.
The purpose of the Friends banquets is to raise funds for local youth shooting programs, for gun ranges, for women's programs and other ventures that invest in sport shooting opportunities. Some see the banquet as an opportunity to make a pro-gun statement. The NRA says attending a local Friends event is one of a dozen things people can do to get involved in the protection of the Second Amendment and to secure freedom.
"The Roanoke Valley Committee was the No. 1 net fund-raising committee in the state last year among 27 Virginia committees, and we want to hold onto that position," said Mike Kessler, banquet chairman. Ticket sales are ahead of last year, he said.
"I am confident we will fill the room and probably turn people away." Kessler said.
Single tickets are $45; $80 for couples; $30 for youths; children under 9 free. A number of ticket packages are available. Tickets must be purchased in advance and will not be sold at the door.
For more information or tickets, contact Mike Kessler, email@example.com 540-529-7304 or Al Milton, 540-797-7777.
The 2012 event netted $38,000. Grants totaling $205,000 from committees in Virginia were distributed earlier this year, Kessler said. Since 1993, Friends committees in Virginia have distributed grants totaling more than one-million dollars to support shooting sports.
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