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Cherryville Shooters bring in New Year

Shooters line up at the Cherryville train depot on New Year's Day.

Shooters line up at the Cherryville train depot on New Year’s Day.

Senior Writer

Inspired by a 200-year-old tradition, the Cherryville New Year’s Shooters made a trek of over 100 miles to celebrate the new year with a journey that began on New Years Eve and ended at 6 p.m. on Saturday.

“We had a tremendous turnout,” Secretary Rusty Wise said. “We had over 450 shooters which is the highest we have ever had. We actually ran out of lanyards that we have. That has never happened. We have 450 of those made.”

There are two groups of shooters, the Cherryville New Year’s Eve Shooters and the Cherryville Traditional Shooters. Together, they make a collective membership total of over 500. The groups split into two separate entities in 1955.

Membership is primarily based in the southern states, but the lion’s share of members are from North Carolina.

“This is a big deal for these families who participate and carry on the tradition,” Wise said. “Some save all year for the gun powder and they take it very seriously.”

Each shooter takes a turn at every stop, which is generally made every half-hour or hour. Lunch and dinner breaks are taken along the way. Shooters take their stance, aim their muskets into the air and fire to ring in the new year.

“It has grown and we have implemented a few policies that include no smoking on host properties,” he said. “Outside of a few bumps and bruises, we had a safe outing.”

Cherryville’s Samuel Kiser, 2, is a fifth generation shooter. With gear that included ear protection and guided by an adult, he pulled the trigger himself and carried on a family tradition in the process.

For the 72nd year in a row, Dean Carpenter participated in the annual event. Carpenter is believed to be the shooter with the most tenure.

“I think that this is something so unique that in this technological age, we are doing it the way the did 200 years ago,” Wise said. “You don’t have to dress up and look pretty. You can wear whatever you want. It’s a social event using black powder and muskets.”

Black powder for the event is purchased through a dealer ahead of time to prevent a shortage each year. Local stores do run out of black powder and generally stock for the event.

Wise said that it is a concern that black powder could be regulated in some capacity by the government and could be unavailable.

“It is a concern, “ he said. “With homeland security and everything else who’s to say that it will be available down the road. Right now, we can get it but who knows what may happen.”

Yearly memberships are $10 for the group and new members must attend a meeting and sign insurance forms to participate and receive a badge.

Memberships are open to all people with no age limit or restrictions. For minors, parents or guardians must sign-off on the insurance forms.

“We had an 18-month old who shot more stops than many of the other shooters,” Wise said through a chuckle.

For more information on memberships, visit cherryvilleshooters.com, call (704) 435-3061 or email info@cherryvilleshooters.com.

Image courtesy of Phil Perry

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