Here it is; the last day of 2019 and reports of disruptive gun fire are starting to surface throughout Facebook. The gun fire is from, at least in part, the annual trek of the Cherryville New Year’s Shooters. One of the two groups, the Cherryville Traditional New Year’s Shooters, made a round through Lincoln County on Saturday. That route used to include locations throughout the City of Lincolnton limits, however, that was stopped last year in favor of the shooters making an appearance at the Apple Drop on New Year’s Eve.

While there are two groups of shooters, many of them overlap on shoots. There’s the original group, the Cherryville New Year’s Shooters Inc. and the newer group, the Cherryville Traditional Shooters. It’s no matter who the group is, the shooters are all adhering to a tradition that’s been in place in Lincoln and Gaston Counties for centuries.

The shooting of black powder muskets or pistols to bring in the New Year is a folk tradition that began in this area with the German settlers as a good-luck wish and/or to shoot evil spirits and/or witches from the trees. It’s become a part of the culture of the region. It’s a time when entire families travel throughout the two counties celebrating the New Year. Culture is something that’s being lost through the generations. That this particular ritual has been so steadfastly retained is something that should be celebrated. It is certainly reveled in by those who attend the shoots. They look forward to it all year.

While today insuring the success of the wheat crop or fertility of fruit trees isn’t the objective of the shooters, it’s still a practice that’s been upheld for hundreds of years and perhaps more importantly, is a part of the history of the community. The guns are loud, but so are fireworks and emergency sirens. It’s not as if the shooters are in one location for hours at a time shooting round after round. Almost as quickly as they exit their vehicles, exchange greetings, load their rifles and fire them, they’re gone. 

Perhaps the shooters should take on more of the customs of the Philadelphia Mummers. There are many similarities between the two groups such as the firing off of guns, but the Mummers are theatrical entertainers. Even though they were customarily called “shooters” that wasn’t their primary method of entertainment. In the early years, people customarily carried guns and gunfire sometimes joined the bells and noisemakers during the celebration. The Mummers dress in outlandish costumes, sing, dance and perform skits. Early in their history, like the Cherryville Shooters, they journeyed from house to house to perform like a traveling theater. Now they put on a parade. The Cherryville Shooters will often dress in eccentric costumes and their performance certainly gets attention. Maybe if the Cherryville Shooters sang songs or danced instead of shooting off guns they’d be more widely accepted, but that isn’t their ritual.

It may be questioned – what if the Cherryville Shooters were completely banned from the county. Would our luck turn? If the witches and evil spirits aren’t shot down from the trees by the shooters, would evil take over? That’s something to be pondered.

In all seriousness, however, the Cherryville Shooters have been visiting Lincoln County for centuries. They only do it this time of the year. The only reason why the Cherryville Traditional New Year’s Shooters come to the Lincolnton-area the Saturday before New Year’s Day is because their New Year’s Day list is too long for them to do it all in one day. There are locations on the Lincolnton-area list that have been there for many years and those people want to be on the list. The shooters aren’t a group of rednecks running around the county willy-nilly shooting off rifles, they’re disciplined and policed by members of each club. Maybe a little bit of tolerance and understanding of the history of the shooters and their ties to Lincoln County is in order. 

Best wishes and luck for the New Year and let’s hope that the Cherryville New Year’s Shooters will continue to fire their guns for the good luck of the county.

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