Local gun show brings hope for future events
by Matt Shinall
Oct 03, 2010 | 2550 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Wil Crowder, owner of BlackBriar Tactical, left, speaks to Jordan Thompson, Cartersville resident, at the gun and knife show Saturday held at the Clarence Brown Conference Center. Matt Shinall/The Daily Tribune News
Wil Crowder, owner of BlackBriar Tactical, left, speaks to Jordan Thompson, Cartersville resident, at the gun and knife show Saturday held at the Clarence Brown Conference Center. Matt Shinall/The Daily Tribune News
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The doors of the Clarence Brown Conference Center opened early Saturday morning for the first gun show of its type and size in Bartow County. With about 40 vendors in attendance, the R.K. Gun and Knife Show will host visitors through today.

Filling the main exhibit hall, the gun show features aisles of shotguns, rifles, pistols and accessories browsed by those in attendance looking to strike a deal. Vendors offer to buy, sell or trade with members of the public invited to bring their unloaded firearms.

Show Manager Joe Smith travels the country with R.K. Gun Shows, adding that as shows become established crowds are expected to increase.

"We're about the biggest in the country. We do shows in Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado. So we probably do -- I can't give you an exact number -- but probably 150 to 200 shows a year, roughly," Smith said.

Events of this nature are expected to be economic catalysts for the entire surrounding area. This event in particular holds true to that belief as most of the vendors come from out of town, traveling to shows for overnight stays. These traveling vendors offering a variety of goods find a seemingly untouched market in this turbulent economy.

"Gun sales are still strong believe it or not," Smith said. "Gun sales have always been strong. Right after the election it was really strong but now its normal. People like guns for all different reasons. There's people that deer hunt, people like me that target shoot, people that collect. People buy guns for protection, there's just all different reasons for buying a gun. A lot of people buy them for investments."

At least one vendor at this weekend's show hails from Bartow County, Wil Crowder, owner of BlackBriar Tactical, has traveled the gun show circuit for more than a year just recently forming his own company selling optics, knives and other accessories. Describing himself as a natural entrepreneur, Crowder began BlackBriar out of a desire to follow his passion.

"It's something that I love to do, so I figured why not do it for myself," Crowder said. "It's all up and down the east coast, we just go where the best shows are going to be. I did this one because its local, I wasn't expecting a huge turnout for this show just because it's the first one in Cartersville in such a long time. But its just one of those things where you want to go out and shake hands with everyone and let them know that you're here.

"If it happens regularly I think it'll build up. ... It's a good opportunity. I think it'll pick up just as much as like the Marietta shows or Gwinnett County shows."

As currently planned, the event will return with another R.K. Gun Show production scheduled at the Cartersville location for February. Executive Director of the Cartersville-Bartow County Convention and Visitors Bureau Ellen Archer spoke to the high amount of interest generated by this event seen in the form of phone calls and early attendance numbers. Bringing in a crowd that hopefully will only grow in time, Archer sees great potential for this event and other exhibition style shows.

"I'm thrilled to have this size event this early on, just to show off the facility." Archer said. "From the telephone calls that we've been getting this morning, there are driving out-of-towners because I'm getting calls for directions to the center. So it's definitely not just a local audience."

Local events of this type will come quickly in the form of the Cartersville-Bartow County Chamber of Commerce Business Showcase on Oct. 28 and Celearthbration in November. Larger scale exhibitions will begin again in February with the next gun show followed by the Northwest Georgia Home and Garden Show in March formerly held at the Rome Forum.

Archer feels that having an exhibit hall facility in Bartow County will serve to benefit the area in several capacities, two of which she specified directly as the main advantages inherent to the Clarence Brown Conference Center.

"It's two-fold. One is community pride and the other is economic development," she said. "And I think one is about as important as the other. I cannot tell you the number of smiles and expressions of pride that Cartersville, Bartow County finally has a facility of this nature. I know it will be an economic driver, there is no doubt in my mind."

This weekend's gun show will continue today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $8, a printable coupon is available online at www.rkshows.com for $1 off admission. The Clarence Brown Conference Center is located at 5450 State Route 20; for more information, call 770-387-1357.