Food, family fun and firearms were the order of the evening Saturday as the Quay County chapter of Friends of the National Rifle Association held its annual fundraising banquet.
Estimates of attendance ranged from 450 to 500. Ruth Nelson, the new manager of the Tucumcari Convention Center, which hosted the event, said the capacity of the main room is about 500, the convention center staff deployed all tables and chairs, and all were filled.
Long tables filled with new hunting rifles, shotguns and hand guns, along with other associated merchandise lined the walls, and participants submitted silent auction bids and bought ticket packages that started at $10 or $20 apiece, or played games to win more tickets.
In addition, there was a live auction for more guns and other merchandise.
Last year’s event netted $35,000 in funds for NRA programs, and about half of that money comes back to Quay County, according to Kent Terry, the local banquet chair. Terry said he thought this year’s contributions would at least match last year’s net addition to the NRA’s coffers.
Those attending also found time to honor Ted Peabody, a World War II veteran who is still active in the Tucumcari community.
In 1945, then-Cpl. Peabody landed in Okinawa with the First Marine Division of the Fleet Marine Force. He was wounded in action and received a Purple Heart. On Saturday, Peabody received a sculpture and a standing ovation to honor his service.
Peter Ide, senior field representative for the New Mexico NRA, said that while the NRA’s chief purpose is to protect the Second Amendment — the right to keep and bear arms —the event was intended to be charitable.
Proceeds for the Quay County event, like those of all of the Friends of the NRA banquets in the state, go mainly to youth programs that teach firearms safety and shooting skills, he said.
“Over the past 22 years,” he said of the state NRA, “we’ve raised $4.2 million and expended $4.2 million of it on charitable causes.”
About half of the proceeds from the Quay County event fund youth firearms programs of local 4-H clubs, according to Brenda Bishop, coordinator of 4-H programs for the Quay County Agricultural Extension office. The Wrangler 4-H Club helped serve meals, catered by Watson’s, to the participants.
In all, about 40 firearms were sold at auction or awarded to lucky ticket holders, along with spotting scopes, jewelry, binoculars, carrying cases, coolers, NRA merchandise and other donated item.