This year marks a significant milestone for Hillsville and Carroll County as the Annual VFW Gun Show & Flea Market celebrates its 50th year of drawing hundreds of thousands of people to the area.
Howard Minton, Commander of the Grover King VFW Post 1115, anticipates this being the biggest gun show and flea market in a long time and said 400,000 to 500,000 visitors to Hillsville are very likely. He said the Hillsville gun show is the largest east of the Mississippi held in one location.
“We are expecting the biggest crowd we have had in several years. We have over 700 vendors this time in the VFW lot alone and we have got almost all of our spaces rented out. Our new flea market manager, Sandra Terry, is just doing an outstanding job,” Minton said. “Everything is looking good. We have got everything going in the right direction. We’ve got a ton of support from past commanders and everybody is getting involved. We think it’s going to be an awesome show this year.”
Gary Adams, Quartermaster at Grover King VFW Post 1115 in Hillsville, said there are several reasons to think this year’s show is going to be special. Besides the obvious reason of the 50th anniversary, other factors are pointing to a great turnout.
“We were a little bit down in vendors last year and as far as coming back we could tell we were off just a little, but the more Sandra talks to people, the bigger it gets. She is really starting to draw some business. Part of it was recovery from the rain storm we had last year, but this year we are not expecting a drop of rain. We firmly believe it is going to be one of the biggest ones we have had in a long time. I think a lot of that has to do with the 50th anniversary, but it also has to do a lot with our community activities. Many of the local churches are getting involved and I think that helps, too. People are going to support it and I think the weather is going to hold out.”
Adams notes those planning the flea market have diversified this year. For instance, VFW gates will be run by local churches this year with New Beginnings in Cana and Galax First Assembly handling the gates and parking. Kitchen #2 will be opened again this year and will be manned by members of the Carroll County Cavaliers Touchdown Club and the Carroll County High School cheerleaders.
“And that way it sows back into the community. The group that is working on it now is outstanding. Several of the past commanders have been involved,” Minton said. “Oscar Hall is preparing the maintenance and Jack Easter and Bill Davis have been involved with the committees and planning. Donald Trausneck is there most mornings working on publications and Marty Rivera has had a lot to do with it as well. We couldn’t do it without them.”
Items of interest this year include special edition collector’s knives for the 50th anniversary of the show. Adams said the VFW is also completely changing its souvenir button this year to mark the special milestone. He also wanted to thank the many folks who make the flea market and gun show what they are after all these years.
“Sowing back into the community is the biggest thing. The community is what has made it last. With all these people coming in from out of town, the community has to make it work,” Adams said. “And some of the folks that started this thing, Mr. (Glenn) Jackson is the ringleader, and the town owes him a big thank you for starting this.”
And finally, Minton said the Annual VFW Gun Show and Flea Market has served as sort of a lifeline for the entire Carroll County community for a long time.
“It’s a staple. There is a ton of tourist dollars coming into Hillsville and that is the best economic thing going. The restaurants and fuel stations prosper,” he said. “We don’t have to provide the hard utility services to sustain it either, so it is the best economic development that you could have.”
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN