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Annual Riverton gun show loads up for 50th year
May 25, 2012 - By Martin Reed, Staff Writer
At the first Riverton Gun Show, roughly 30 exhibitors displayed about 300 guns, including a 16th-century Persian rifle, in the First National Bank's basement in downtown Riverton (now First Interstate Bank).
Bob Funk and Will Guthrie were among those present for the debut Wyoming Gun Collector's Association organizational meeting and firearms exhibit March 4, 1962.
"He and I were two of the first officers," Funk said. "And Will and I are the only two surviving first board members of the first show when we organized."
Five decades later the association's efforts to bring like-minded firearms enthusiasts together continues as one of the strongest gun shows in the Rocky Mountain region.
"We've been here 50 years, and I think it's really something," Funk said. "There's not many conventions or any that ever come to Riverton for 50 years in a row."
Guthrie said, "Wasn't it the first gun show in Wyoming?"
"It was the first gun show in Wyoming and it's still going today -- strong," Funk said.
The 50th Annual Riverton Gun Show is returning Memorial Day weekend to the Fremont County Fairgrounds. Admission is $5. The show fills two buildings and is 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.
"There's modern and antique and everything," Funk said. "It covers the gun world."
Funk and Guthrie were integral in forming and leading the Wyoming Gun Collector's Association over the years.
"We formed that club, and eventually I ended up owning it," Funk said. "Will and I, we ran it. ... I ran it by myself for 10 years or better. Then I actually sold it to the Wyoming Weapons Collectors."
Although the association changed hands, Funk and Guthrie continue to be mainstays at the Riverton Gun Show.
"I've never missed in 50 years," Funk said. "That's really something. I spent seven years with the Air Force and taught school here for 33 years."
He recalled an injury he suffered while preparing for one of the gun shows that resulted in a hospital stay.
"One time I was sick, and we were actually setting up on the stage, and I kind of keeled over," he said.
That happened on a Friday afternoon.
"They put me in the hospital, and I was back at the gun show on Saturday," he said.
"I've missed one as far as I could remember," Guthrie said.
The gun show has built a reputation of attracting a wide variety of vendors displaying not only firearms but also other types of accessories to satisfy the array of collectors, Funk said.
"Riverton has become one of the very popular areas in the United States for people to attend a gun show," he said. "And it's always on Memorial Day weekend. We've never changed that in the last 30 years."
Vendors and patrons alike expect a different breed of gun show in Riverton.
"We do things in Riverton that they do not do in other gun shows," Funk said, adding that the treatment of visitors remains a priority.
A flier from the 1963 Riverton Gun Show advertised vendor tables at $5 each.
"Today we have the lowest rate for exhibitors on what we call table rent," Funk said, noting they cost $45 each for association members and $50 for non-members.
"It's about the cheapest gun show I know of, and I went to 26 of them last year from Maine to Reno, Nev.," Funk said. "And the cheapest one I went to was $65, and they went up to $350 (in Las Vegas)."
The gun show organizers credit the fairground's managers for their dedication to the event.
"We'd like to compliment the fairgrounds because they have stayed with us all these years, and that's really something," Funk said.
With more than 1,000 people attending each year, the event is a draw for area businesses, he added.
"I think last year there were eight states represented at the show. I think this is the third-largest convention that comes to Riverton on a yearly basis," Funk said.
"I think it's wonderful that something could be in Riverton that long and not switch cities or quit," he said.
"And it's still very popular and not phasing out," Guthrie said.