Senior Center hosts first-ever gun show

Wednesday, March 16, 2016 - 10:31
  • Jim Kauffman of Palmer participated in the first ever gun show at the Chugiak-Eagle River Senior Center as an effort to find new owners for the guns of his youth.
  • Wayne Anthony Ross (left), Anchorage attorney, and his wife, Virginia Ross (right), were selling his book about his youth and his early life in Alaska at the gun show. PHOTOS BY AMY ARMSTRONG FOR THE STAR

Pushing walkers or strollers, sporting gun belts or holsters, hundreds of folks flocked to the gun show, at the Chugiak-Eagle River Senior Center.

In an effort to increase community interaction and create new revenue sources to replace dwindling grant monies, the center sponsored the gun show in its newly renovated dining hall last weekend

“We are always looking for fun ways to increase revenue for the center while including the community,” Monika Dahlberg said. She is the center’s operations director and also heads up business development. “On Saturday we had more than 700 people come here.”

That’s great news to Linda Hendrickson, the center’s executive director.

She knows it can be difficult to draw youth and families to the center.

But they were there over the weekend.

Young airmen from JBER mingled with center residents who were pushing walkers around the gun show. Families with kiddos made their way around the vendor tables and over to the cafeteria hot food line where hot dogs and other snacks were available for purchase.

“I think the novelty of having a gun show at a senior center certainly brought some people out,” she said. “But that is completely okay with us. This show brought people to the senior center that have never been here before and gave them the opportunity to learn more about all of the services provided here.”

Hendrickson isn’t talking about the services – assisted living and bingo – that commonly come to mind when thinking about a senior center.

She’s referencing the center’s dining hall/banquet facility, its catering services, beauty salon, espresso bar and gift shop – all of which are open to the general public.

Turns out the marketing strategy of hosting a gun show worked for the center.

Dahlberg said several vendors have signed on for next spring’s show and she received enough positive feedback to consider another gun show in November right before Thanksgiving.

Hendrickson said at least one catering contract is in the works due to the show.

And even cooler – a couple of residents from the center’s independent living section bought “stun guns” as Hendrickson called them for personal protection.

As students from the Naval Junior ROTC program at Chugiak High School took food orders from show attendees and vendors, shoppers looked over the variety of offerings at the show.

That variety wasn’t limited to different types of guns and ammo, but as in a fairly new trend in the gun show circuit, it included concealed carry purses, homemade salsa and jewelry.

“I am here to help him out, so I may as well have a table too offering something for the ladies in tow for the gun show,” Betty Drinkwine, owner of Wolf Dreams, said.

The “him” she referenced is husband, Don Carter, who owns Carter’s Gun & Repair.

Both are based in Eagle River and both do the local guns how circuit together.

Wolf Dreams produces soy candles and other gifts but the specialty of Drinkwine’s home-based business is jewelry – particularly the wire weaving trend using copper wire.

“There have been a lot more women at this show,” Drinkwine said. “I think it is because of where it is being held – at a senior center.”

Of course, what respectable gun show in The Last Frontier wouldn’t have at least one Alaska legend on hand?

Enter Wayne Anthony Ross (WAR), the Anchorage attorney nominated in 2009 by then Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be Alaska Attorney General. He held the post for less than two weeks before the state Legislature disapproved him by a vote of 35 to 23. It was the first time in state history that a gubernatorial appointee was not approved.

His disapproval of the “homosexual lifestyle” and a letter he wrote in 1993 to the state bar association against a law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation provided the fodder to disapprove him as state attorney general.

He is a long-time director of the National Rifle Association and thus fits right in at a gun show.

He and his son, Greg, were selling some odds and ends of ammo and pistols for a friend and WAR, as he prefers to be called, had his 2012 autobiography, “Courtrooms Cartridges and Campfires: Lawyering on The Last Frontier,” for sale as well.

For some vendors, the show wasn’t about profits, but about letting go of legacy.

Jim Kauffman, a long-time member of the Alaska Gun Collectors Association, participated in the show seeking just the right buyer for two long guns he purchased in his youth: a Winchester model 94 caliber 30-30 manufactured in 1949 and an L.C. Smith field grade double 12 x 12.

“I bought those when I was 17, after saving up my money from my newspaper route,” he said. “I earned one and a quarter cents per paper. That was quite a few years ago.”

In the intervening years between then and his age today of 82, Kauffman hunted in the Pittsburgh, Pa, area, served in the military, owned a gun shop for 25 years, and shot competitively in nine different states including Alaska where he posted his best score ever – 1,597 out of 1,600 – at a meet in the Matanuska Valley.

Now he says it is time to let go of those guns.

“I am just getting too old,” he said. “I don’t have the upper body strength anymore.”

But he’s not letting those legacy guns go to just anyone. He has them priced in the range that only a knowledgeable gun collector would appreciate.

“It’s time for another custodian for these guns,” he said.

Don’t mistake his posture for sentiment though.

When asked who he would consider selling the guns of his youth to, he smiled and said, “Anybody with the money.”

Connect with Amy Armstrong via email at [email protected] or online at

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