RAPID RIVER - Knife and gun vendors, dealers, traders and buyers, as well as those simply enthusiastic or inquisitive about guns, were literally wall-to-wall on Saturday afternoon in the final hours of the two-day 18th annual Cabin Fever Gun and Knife Show held at the Rapid River Lions Club on Friday night and Saturday.
The show, sponsored by the Marble Plus Knife Club, was coordinated by Wayne Wiltzius. Originally from Marinette, Wis., now living in the local area, Wiltzius has been organizing the gun show for the past four years for the club.
In addition to the Cabin Fever Show, a second show is offered at the Gas and Steam Engine Show on Labor Day Weekend.
“What do you know about this knife?” Perry Peacock of Ralph, at right, asks Wayne Wiltzius, organizer of the 18th annual Cabin Fever Gun and Knife Show held in Rapid River over the weekend. The show was sponsored by the Marble Plus Knife Club. Although he was a dealer at the show, Wiltzius said he spends a considerable amount of time checking out guns, knives and other items that individuals bring in looking for information. (Daily Press photo by Dorothy McKnight)
Wiltzius said the average attendance at each show is between 600 and 650 and there is a wide variety of interest among those who either are involved in the gun show and those who attend.
Although at most shows, rifles are in more demand than pistols because of the popularity of hunting in the Upper Peninsula, Wiltzius said it varies from show to show.
"Some are hunters who are looking for guns or knives to gut the deer," he said. "Some are collectors - such as Marble Arms and Marble knives - and they want to either sell parts of their collection or add to the one they have."
Wiltzius said many collectors start with an inexpensive piece or two and then desire to add more expensive or even rare pieces as the collection grows.
"Some may want to trade for something they don't already have," Wiltzius said. "But there are some collectors might have a hard time letting loose of a part of their collection, even if they have two or three just like it."
Some sellers, he explained, may be individuals who are getting older and want to get rid of their guns because they no longer use or collect them.
Despite the fact he had a significant amount of guns, knives and other items to sell, Wiltzius said he spends about 70 percent of his time looking at items brought in by individuals who simply want information about them.
"If it's a Winchester, they might want to know something about it - how old it is, what it might be worth," he explained, bringing out one of three large gun catalogues in his possession. "The value of an items is determined by its condition, its rarity or its demand."
A case in point was Perry Peacock of Ralph, who brought in a folding knife he said had been found by a friend inside a wall. Although the knife had a little rust on it, Peacock was told the value of the knife could vary considerable, depending on the amount a prospective buyer might be willing to pay for it.
According to Wiltzius, the State of Michigan has extensive licensing and permit regulations when it comes to gun shows.
Even as he spoke, Wiltzius took a moment or two to check out a gun that was brought into the show by a seller.
"Any gun that comes in the door, I first check to make sure it's unloaded and then I put a tie on it so it can't be discharged," he said.
Wiltzius said gun laws vary, not only from state to state, but also from city to city.
"In Michigan, you have to have a special permit from the government and the FBI to own a sub-machine gun and fully automatic rifles," he said.
Permission to purchase and sell firearms must first be obtained by the local sheriff's department and all dealers at the Marble shows must have a Federal Firearms License (FFL) in order to do business. As a licensed dealer, Wiltzius said whenever he makes a sale, he fills out a form the size of an index card in triplicate, showing the type of gun, its serial number, and both the buyer's and purchaser's name. The form has to be then registered with the Michigan State Police where the seller's name is removed from the record and transferred to the buyer. The police keep a copy, the seller keeps a copy and the buyer keeps the last copy.
With much of the public's attention focusing on assault weapons, Wiltzius believes the public doesn't understand what an assault weapon really is.
"About the only difference between an automatic and a semi-automatic is that an automatic rifle will keep on firing as long as you pressed the trigger," he explained. "With a semi-automatic, you have to pull the trigger with each shot, same as with a hunting rifle." He said some weapons are fitted with accessories that make it look like a military assault rifle but actually makes the gun easier to control. We don't have any at our shows."
Each year, proceeds from the gun shows are given to local charities and organizations. Last year's proceeds ($1,900) were divided between Northwoods Air Lifeline, Bay Cliff, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Manistique Flotilla, Salvation Army, Walk for Warmth, Alliance against Violence and Abuse, and St. Vincent de Paul. The benefactors of this year's donations have yet to be announced.
The Marble Plus Knife Club has 235 members and meets the first Tuesday of each month at the Lions Club. Anyone interested in knives, guns or other sporting collectibles is welcome to attend a meeting. The club's address is P.O. Box 228, Gladstone, MI 49837.