FNRA pre-event raises funds, sells guns, and connects community

Smoke ‘n Guns celebrates 10 years of fundraising in Cordova

Gary Graham, chairman of the Cordova Chapter of FNRA, talks with Greg Stephens, senior field representative for NRA in South Alaska, during the FNRA fundraising event, Smoke 'n Guns, held at the Powder House on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018. (Photo by Emily Mesner/The Cordova Times)

The Powder House was packed Tuesday night, Aug. 28, as Cordova’s gun enthusiasts gathered for the 10th annual Smoke ‘n Guns fundraising event, hosted by the Cordova chapter of Friends of the National Rifle Association of America.

Smoke ‘n Guns, the pre-event for the Friends of the NRA main banquet, featured a Wall of Guns where raffle ticket winners chose a prize from a selection of more than 40 guns.

The main banquet is set for 5 p.m. today, Aug. 31 at the Powder House. Banquet tickets are on sale at the Powder House, but supplies are limited.

“Cordova is known around the nation as one of the (most fun), most personable banquets,” said Greg Stephens, senior field representative for NRA in South Alaska, which includes everything south of Wasilla. “Historically, Cordova is the number two net funds per attendee in the state.”

Both Trish Wilson and Paula Phillips were double winners in the raffle on Tuesday night, Wilson winning the grand prize Montana Rifle 300WM SS with scope.

Stephens ran the auction, chatting loudly with the crowd as he shook a white bucket filled with raffle tickets.

“Cordova has a unique chairman and co-chair that know everyone in town,” he said of Gary and Libbie Graham, owners of the Powder House. “They are passionate about the cause…devote more time and effort than any other committee.”

Gary Graham originally signed up to run the event for its first year until they found someone else. Ten years later, he is still involved, with help from his wife, Libbie Graham, co-chair of FNRA in Cordova.

“It’s become kind of our passion,” Gary Graham said.

Profits from these events will go towards national and state-wide programs, including high school and college programs, gun clubs, events, and even Olympic shooters.

Fifty percent of the money raised stays within the state, to be allocated by Alaska’s 24 chapters of FNRA, Gary Graham said.

Graham said he recognizes the impact to the community the Cordova Trap & Gun Club has had since they began applying for FNRA grants about two years ago. Money is able to stay in Cordova and be spent on programs and updating Cordova’s public shooting range.

The FNRA has a list of shared grant priorities, including range development, women and youth programs (state-wide), women’s local programs, safety, and hunter education.

Special programs manager Megan McConnell and Catherine Barsanti, advancement communication manager for NRA, also traveled from the East Coast for the events.

“We want to keep coming back. There’s no plans to stop,” Barsanti said.

McConnell and Barsanti kept busy at the event, having arrived in Cordova just prior to its start. Barsanti sold tickets while McConnell ran the treasurer’s table.

Check back with us for coverage on the main banquet in our Sept. 7 edition.

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Emily Mesner is a staff reporter and photographer for The Cordova Times. Reach her at emesner@thecordovatimes.com. Emily graduated from Central Michigan University, earning a degree in photojournalism with a cultural competency certificate. She first visited Alaska in 2016, working as a media intern for the National Park Service in Kotzebue and Denali National Park and Preserve, and has been coming back ever since. To see more photos, follow @thecordovatimes and @emilymesnerphoto on Instagram.