Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Dixon's Gunmakers Fair, Kempton, PA

We attend some unusual annual events and we took the Roadtrek to another one this year. We went to Dixon's Gunmakers Fair in Kempton, Pennsylvania. This fair brings in some of the finest muzzleloading gunmakers in the country. Muzzleloading guns are flintlock and percussion firing blackpowder rifles and smoothbores. This fair mostly attracts those in the reenacting hobby and those who blackpowder hunt, but there is a lot of interest here for everyone. The fair is held under a series of tents. 

The fair is always held on the last full weekend in July for three days starting on Friday and ending on Sunday from 9 am to 5 pm each day. The fair is free. Parking is $2.00. The fair is held on the grounds of Dixon's Muzzleloading Shop, one of the best stocked stores of its kind.

I had some hesitation about bringing the Roadtrek to Dixon's. Parking is on the grass fields that are in front of the shop. If it has rained these fields are muddy and become rutted. More so than others that I have parked the Roadtrek on. I could just imagine the Roadtrek sinking into the mud. Before we left the weather reports were fair and there did not seem to be much of a chance of rain. When we arrived at Dixon's it had rained there several days before and there was mud in the fields. When you arrive you drive past the parking field that says 4 wheel drive vehicles only and keep going down the road.

The man who was directing us to park realized that we would be in trouble if he sent us out into the mud in the field where they were parking cars, and he pointed us down a partially gravel lane to a parking spot (not far from where a Class C RV was parked) that was mostly grass with a little gravel. As we got out of the Roadtrek to walk over to the fair he came over and told us to make sure we backed out onto the gravel and followed that along to the exit when we left and not to pull forward into the mud. Wise advice that I had already taken note of.

Our Roadtrek parked in the field at the end of the day.

 Dixon's Gunmakers Fair has more than just historically reproduced guns for sale. There are a variety of vendors mixed in who sell clothing for reenacting of various centuries, small items that would be period correct in an historic setting, history books, redware pottery, handmade knives, accessories for blackpowder shooting, and hand forged tomahawks. For most non-reenactors this is all interesting to see even if there is no interest in buying.

Also at Dixon's there are living history demonstrations set up  on the field above the hill from the shop. Here there was a Revolutionary War unit firing a blackpowder cannon on the hour and firing their flintlock muskets and rifles. Also right there were tomahawk throwing demonstrations and the public could take a turn throwing at the target.

Across the field there was a French and Indian War camp ->

Another camp had colonists from the 1600s ->

A cowboy chuck wagon is out near the cowboy camp demonstrating cooking on an open campfire - including tasting what is being cooked and sharing of the recipes ->

None of these camps are full encampments but just a small sample of what a camp from that era would have been like. All those who are demonstrating and interacting with the public in these camps are doing it for the love of the hobby and are not paid by the site.

Throughout the fair you will see gunmakers at work. Below the shop building you will see rifle barrels being rifled cut by hand using a long bench with a cutter on a long rod that is turned into and out of the barrel hundreds of times - pushing and pulling each pass with a crank. There is a blacksmiths forge turning out barrels and blackwork.

On the field with the living history camps there was a group that teaches muzzleloader making and they had several stations set up to show the process. This gentleman is carving a gunstock.

Some of their finished work- each was for sale and the prices were reasonable. Of course, reasonable is a very relative term.

Beside one of the fair tents this gentleman was turning end caps for powder horns on a foot pedal lathe.

In addition to all there is to see and buy, there are seminars that are repeated each of the three days. These include gunmaking techniques, horn making, and various arts related to this business and hobby. There is also a seminar area with topics of interest to the ladies including things like lye soap making.

A highlight of the fair for both visitors and those participating is a competition for the best built guns, powder horns, and leather pouches. Each entry is critically judged by a team of judges and prizes are awarded only to the best. All are on display on this building where the judging takes place.

A matched pair of flintlock pistols entered for judging. You can see the level of work that this event attracts. This is ALL handmade.

We had a great time at the fair. I only bought a few flints. I have purchased some significant things at this fair in the past but purchases like those are now behind me. I enjoy the fair just looking. Meryl enjoys it as well.

Dixon's is located at 9952 Kunkels Mill Road, Kempton, PA 19529 right off of PA Route 737 (exit from I78 to 737 North). Their phone number is 610-756-6271. Pine Hill RV Park campground is close by. Here is a link to Dixon's Gunmakers Fair. They update the site for each year's fair with the new dates in late winter.


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