By Dan Hust
LIBERTY April 17, 2007 The Sullivan County Longbeards, a chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, may boast 39 members, but its annual Hunting Heritage Banquet shows just how much support exists for the great outdoors.
More than 150 people turned out Saturday night for the Longbeards’ fifth annual dinner, held for the first time at the Days Inn in Liberty due to the loss of the Villa Roma’s main dining hall in last year’s fire.
Nary an empty table could be found, and many people brought their entire families with them.
“Our agenda is our youth,” explained Banquet Chairman and Chapter Treasurer Hank D’Auria, “because they are our future sportsmen.”
“The whole emphasis is strictly youth,” agreed Chapter President Butch Kortright. “We tap all the resources available for the benefit of our youth.”
Saturday’s dinner evidenced that effort, as raffles, door prizes and sponsorships from local business giants like M&M Auto Group, Meyer Sport Shop, and Fur, Fin and Feather ensured another very successful fundraiser.
Support for the cause educating youth in safe hunting and appreciation of the outdoors was also evident, with members of the Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs of Sullivan County in attendance as well.
“Everybody knows what we do for the kids of the county,” said D’Auria proudly.
That includes events like the coming one in May at Shaver’s Trout Hatchery in Beaverkill, which will feature a fishing derby complete with food and drink, open to all kids up to 14 years of age.
Later in the year, there’s a BB gun turkey shoot, along with archery and flycasting events.
Last September’s Sullivan County Youth Expo at the Grahamsville Fairgrounds, which the chapter co-sponsors, attracted more than 300 kids, and the Longbeards plan to do it again this year.
At Saturday’s dinner, one young person in particular benefitted from the Longbeards’ generosity.
Kristina Millis, a Sullivan West senior, received a $500 scholarship check the first the club ever gave for her forest technologies studies to be commenced this fall at SUNY Alfred.
Daughter of Robert and Tina Millis, Kristina enjoys the outdoors, especially archery, and thanked the chapter and the Federation for their help while holding her oversized “check” for $500.
Meanwhile, the crowd (including the repeatedly lucky Millis) had a great time winning the various raffle prizes, ranging from framed pictures to lawn ornaments to guns. It was, after all, the “Hunting Heritage” dinner the last dinner of its kind to still use the word “hunting,” said Kortright.
“We’re proud of our heritage,” he explained. “We’re not afraid to tell it like it is.”
For more information or to join the Sullivan County Longbeards, please call Kortright at 292-4325 or D’Auria at 439-3738.