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The Friends of NRA Banquet in Guymon completed its 20th year this year and it did it with a resounding bang! The event, which took place March 2 in the Texas County Activity Center, grossed $102,700 and after expenses - took home a whopping $70,000.
âThatâs a big increase over 2012 - it come out to about a 70 percent increast in net dollars,â said NRA Senior Field Representative Darren DeLong, Oklahoma City. âIn 2012, our gross was $60,000 and the net was $35,200. For it to go up that much in a year - thatâs big time. Itâs a great way to get the year started off.â
And the results are not uncommon among these types of events.
âEvery banquet in the United States is is doing well because of the current âclimateâ - it has been pretty incredible,â DeLong said referring to concerns about what will happen in the future with the second amendment.
And income was not the only thing up for the local event.
âWe had over 700 people here this year,â said event Chairman Greg Starr. âWe had 597 attend in 2012.â
The attendance is something Guymonâs FNRA committee has excelled at.
âFor so many years, Guymon was one of the highest attended banquets in the United States,â DeLong said. âLast year for the first time they werenât because Woodward had more than 700 people at their banquet - they were the highest last year in Oklahoma. But at one time, (attendance wise) Guymon was always at the top of the list.â
DeLong said attendance at this yearâs banquet was âprobably not the highestâ in Oklahoma, but it was âcloseâ.
âIt is still going to rank very high in the nation,â he said. âFor a FNRA event - that is above average. Some of the best attendance in the United States.â
Organizers have come a long way since 1992.
âThe very first banquet that Guymon did they grossed $17,170 and netted $5,944 - that is a great statistic to show you how far they have come,â DeLong said.
Eagan canât believe how long they have been at it.
âWhen we got our packets and it said, â20th Anniversaryâ - I thought, âwow, we have been doing this a long time,ââ he said.
Last year was the 20th anniversary for the Friends of NRA organization itself, Eagan said. And it would have been the local organizationsâs 20th years as well.
âWe skipped a year,â he said. âWe were doing the banquets in the Fall and we kept running into harvest and hunting season. We wanted to do it in late Winter or early Spring when the farmers are not so active.â
Consequently, due to timing, there was no banquet in 1995.
âWe didnât want to have a banquet and then turn around only six months later and have another,â Hinchey said.
Eagan, along with some other âcoreâ members such as Chris Hinchey, have been with the event since the beginning. Some of those who have also been working on the event a long time, according to Eagan, are Ellis McCurdy, Lynn Long and Neal McKinley.
âWeâve had different ones who have gone off and on the committee over the years,â Eagan said. âBut some of them have been there since the beginning.â
Eagan attributes their success to how they work together as a committee.
âWe have a chairman, but he doesnât just make rules - he asks everyone in the meetings, âis this how we want to do this?â. It is a group - a team - effort,â Eagan said.
Eagan, Hinchey and DeLong agree two of the mainstays of the committee who have since passed away were an intricate part of the event - John Hairford and Bruce Blackwelder.
âJohnny was the motivator - the spark plug that kept it going for a long time and Bruce was a great volunteer and he served as a state chairman,â DeLong said.
Why is the event successful in Texas County? Eagan says he believes it is the conservative nature of the area, and the reason behind the event.
âThe money we raise goes to a good cause,â he said. âPeople feel it is a worthwhile event. Itâs fun and we try to get the whole family involved.â
DeLong attributes the success of the Guymon event and others throughout the state to those on the committees.
âThey are all volunteers,â he said. âWe were second in the state in 20 years to raise $1 million net dollars - that takes a lot of hard work and it comes with recruiting the right people on those committees who are business-minded people and make things happen. Not every volunteer can make things happen, but the ones on these committees - they are a special group.â
DeLong himself has been with the organization for the past 17-plus years.
âIt will be 18 years in July,â he said. âThere was only one active banquet when I took over in 1995 and now there are 26.â
The Guymon committee has âset the markâ for other events in the state and national according to DeLong.
âThey got us started out of the box with a bang,â he said. âI think we will raise another $1 million net in the state again this year.â
Starr has been working with the committee for the past six or seven years, he said, and the past five years as chairman.
âEvery year we have increased our numbers and our income,â Starr said. âThe committee has become stronger and we just seem to get better and better every year.â
According to Starr, the core group of volunteers numbers about eight but it takes around 25 to put the event on.
âThis was the best ever banquet,â he said. âIt was oustanding in every aspect. We have some great members: Chris Hinchey, Billy Eagan, Kay and Doyle Herald, Dana Davis, Mitch Birkhart and so many others who work very hard. Weâve got a really good committee.â
Overall, according to DeLong, the Guymon event has grossed $870,000 since they started hosting banquets - netting $400,000 in their 20 year history.
âThey have done well - it is a great committee,â he said again. âLike the rest of the committees in Oklahoma, they just keep striving to get better. They donât ever just settle for the status quo.â
DeLong said Starr is a great chairman for the event.
âHe tries to move them forward and gets them to try new ideas,â he said.
It is the volunteers who make the difference.
âThe reward I have from a bigger picture is being at Ground O, making things happen and in a yearâs time can look and say look what weâve done,â DeLong said. âHow successful everyone is and being a part of it - thatâs what makes it worthwhile. These volunteers motivate me. When I see what they are doing and they donât get paid - it motivates me. To be side by side working with them - thatâs what makes it special.â
Where will the money go now?
A large portion of it wll go toward shooting sports programs.
âI am the voting delegate from our committee to sit on the grant committee where we look at almost 100 grants every year for shooting sports in Oklahoma,â Starr said. âWe had 96 this year - half of the money from this banquet goes to those grants.â
The only organizations to apply for those grants this year were the Texas County 4-H and the Hooker Masonic Lodge, according to Starr, who has served on the grant committee for four years.
The rest of the monies raised this year will go the NRA foundation for other shooting sports programs.
So why have an FNRA banquet?
âI believe very strongly in the second amendment and that the future of our amendment and safe shooting sports is getting our families involved in safe shooting events,â said Hinchey. âFrom day one when John (Hairford) initiated this banquet, and did the footwork to get it started, this committee detemined that we wanted it to be a family affair. And I think thatâs our future.â
The secret of their success according to Hinchey is ânew blood.â
âWe havenât always been successful, but we have always concentrated on getting new blood no only in adults but also in young people to be involved,â he said. âAny club or committee - if you donât bring in new blood - you donât have a future.â
If you are interested in being a part of the FNRA, contact any of the members.