It may feel strangely like walking into an old duster flick, but Boomtown is in the Comox Valley — and it was bustling over the long weekend.
Boomtown is located at the Courtenay Fish and Game Protective Association by Comox Lake and it was the site of the Single Action Shooting Society’s (SASS) Canadian championships this year.
After walking through a mock mining tunnel, visitors stepped out into an entire mockup town, complete with a saloon, general store, jail, Boot Hill cemetery, fort, a remittance man’s house, and new this year, a bank and barbershop — as well as gun smoke and the crack of pistols in the air.
Shooters from Oregon, Washington State, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and even Germany joined a large host of B.C. competitors for the four-day competition from Aug. 30 to Sept. 2.
But the competition encompasses more than speedy trigger fingers. Each competitor must have an alias based on the Old West and they must dress up to look the part as well.
Local shooter Debbie Guthrie (Helena Handbasket) said the event went well.
“We had the most people we’ve ever had attending, the most shooters. And it was really spectacularly successful,” she said, adding nearly 100 shooters competed and this was the first year the event was recognized as a national — rather than regional — competition by the society.
She noted the Comox Valley shooters, the Valley Regulators, did very well.
“We also do have some of the most skilled shooters, and some of the ones who’ve been doing it for the longest, too,” Guthrie said. “Some of the best shooters in the country come from the Comox Valley.”
Shooters young and old compete, and for some it’s a family affair. Ed Gee, (Little Edgy), and his 11-year-old son, known as Whistling Will, both took part in the competition.
“It’s a great sport, it’s a great family sport we can play together,” Gee said of why the two came out. “We have fun.”
Seventy-eight-year-old Shirley Salter (Sure Shot Shirley) is a regular competitor, but came solely as a spectator this year as she hurt her arm. She noted age doesn’t matter in the competition, and anyone can do it.
“As long as you can hold that gun you can shoot. Anybody’s welcome,” she said, as she took in the action while wearing a Victorian era dress.
Guthrie noted a few reasons why she started competing just over a year ago: “The social aspect is a big part of it. There’s a fair bit of travelling involved and you’re meeting up with other shooters at all kinds of different venues all around North America. That part is a lot of fun.
“And getting a little more physically active is fun, too. And then there’s the costuming part, which is really fun.”
She noted most shooters have a comfortable shooting outfit for the day and they have another outfit for the evening banquets.
She noted there are variations on the Old West theme, and as long as the outfits are reminiscent of the late 1800s they are acceptable.
“We’ve had people come dressed as Russian soldiers from that period and we’ve had people dressed as Pony Express riders, and there’s just an enormous variety of costumes you see out there,” she explained.
First and second place in the overall ranking went to two shooters from Orgeon, but Valley Regular club member Al Wilson (Haweater Hal) placed third, and his wife, Jolene (Victoria Diamond) was the top lady shooter.