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The Cherryville Eagle

Cherryville City Hall site of Traditional New Year’s Shooters’ 2020 starting volley

Jan 03, 2020 09:22AM

This Traditional New Year’s Shooters photo was taken sometime in the 1990’s and pictures Pete Neill (right, with the white glove on). His brother, Jim Neill is on left, and stands next to the late Joey Ginn, who loved going on a “shot”. The group still shoots for Dan and Pat Ginn, Joey’s mom and dad, said Pete. (Photo provided)



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Coming up with a new “spin” on a 250-plus-year-old story – one older than the community it has made famous – is hard by anyone’s estimation.

As Traditional New Year’s Shooter crier and member Gary Dellinger said recently, “It’s hard when you basically do the same thing every year for the past 250 years, to come up with a new ‘spin’ for that story; to keep it fresh and new every year. There have been some changes over the years that have been made for safety, and to keep us up to date with laws and technology, but we are still just shooting guns and welcoming in the new year.” That is what, after all, makes something a tradition. Sticking with what has made it a legend after all these years.  

Not to mention braving the cold, or damp, or just plain wet or snowy, weather! None of that is new for the intrepid musketeers of the Traditional New Year’s Shooters group, who once again started their “shoot” at Cherryville’s City Hall, on Mountain Street.

They came out and fired their guns, frightening away any evil spirits for yet another year.

Prior to their first shot though, the group, member Gary Dellinger said they always meet at 6:30 p.m., on New Year’s Eve at the Courthouse Square in Lincolnton to fire off a round at the Lincolnton New Year’s Day Apple Drop Festival.

“It’s a relatively new thing for them over there and they asked us if we would come by and do it again, and we said we would,” he said.

They also shoot a shot for their friends and neighbors in Lincoln County, something that long-time TNYS member Dennis Devine said has been going on now for “about 30 years or so.”

Devine, who has been shooting with this group for quite some time, said some of the boys from the other group (Cherryville New Year’s Shooters, Inc.) pay dues to the TNYS group just for that Lincoln County shot in order to be covered by TNYS’ insurance so they can come over there and shoot in Lincoln Co., with the TNYS group.

Devine noted about that shot that it has grown from just a few Lincoln Countians who requested for the TNYS group to come and shoot to there now being about 30 or more stops in that county before the group’s regular New Year’s Eve shoot actually begins in Cherryville. 

Dellinger said he knows the Lincoln County shot has been going on for at least that long. He has been shooting 29 years now and he added it was going on before he started with the group.

Member John “Pete” Neill, who has been shooting with the TNYS group for about 48 years now, said he figures he is one of their longest active members.

Neill, 60, said he has been shooting with the group since 1971, when he was 12., adding he started by using another fellow’s musket.

Neill said he has three reproduction muskets and one 1871 original Springfield musket.

He also noted the group will shoot on Saturday, Dec. 28, at 8 a.m., at Ferguson’s Hardware in Cherryville.

“When I started shooting with them, we shot in Northbrook, then went into Lincolnton, and then wound back up in Cherryville,” he said. 

Neill said the group had 130 dues-paying members but added it will “be substantially higher (in numbers)” by the Saturday shoot as members will have come by to pay dues and get signed up to be able to go out and participate.

Neill said his 62-year-old brother, Jim shoots, adding that he and Jim wear the old-flat top, Irish walking-style hats when they shoot, though he added you’re likely to see “just about any gear and get-up” out there as anything.

“Our grandfather wore those old hats and we do too,” he said.

Neill noted that many folks who were originally on the TNYS schedule of stops have passed away. He said he didn’t know the plans of their kids or heirs to stay on the shoot schedule, adding such normally is passed down from the parents to the kids, or the next generation.

“We have been known to continue to shoot at the home of a widow or a widower,” he noted.

Neill has some stories, he said, and he went over one of their group’s traditions.

“A lot of people may have forgotten this,” he said. “It’s a running tradition with our group that you don’t drop your gun at a shoot. You get teased if you do.

One year at our High Shoals shot, one of our old-time original shooters and criers who helped get us chartered with the Top 10 of North Carolina historical events, was shooting an older musket had double-loaded his musket. When he shot it, it flew out of his hands! The old timers in our group ragged him about it so much he almost went home!

“I mean, he had never ever dropped his gun before. He was so embarrassed he apologized to all of us!” 

For Neill, who is also one of the “callers” or “criers” or “chanters”, it’s as much about getting out and greeting the people you only get to see once a year as it is the actual firing of the guns.

Said Neill, “They’re so glad to see us. It touches your heart because they’re waiting on us and it seems they’re happy when we show up because they’ve been waiting on us so long that night, or that morning.”  

As always, with events dealing with groups the size of the two shooters groups individually, safety is very important to them, hence there is always a fair-sized police escort.

And to that end, thanks are always in order for those departments involved, Dellinger noted.

“Once again, we always want to thank the Cherryville Police Department and Chief Cam Jenks, as well as the Cherryville Fire Department and Chief Jeff Cash for everything they do for us this time of year,” said Dellinger. “We also want to thank and recognize the Gaston County Sheriff’s Department and Sheriff Alan Cloninger and his deputies, as well as GEMS and their EMTs, and the Gaston County Police Department for all their service and assistance in keeping us safe and secure while we were out during our shoot.”

Dellinger and the TNYS members are also thankful for the many folks who took time to feed them and provide nourishment while they were on their schedule.

“We do this for them, and couldn’t do it without them,” Gary noted.

Dellinger said the members and group officers will take time to rest up, then they will start talking about and planning the next shoot.

“We are looking forward to 2021!” he said.