Ohio's Trapshooting Hall of Fame Museum leaving soon for Sparta, Illinois

By Larry S. Moore

I had not visited the Amateur Trapshooting Association (ATA) since the last Grand American event was held in Vandalia in August of 2005. I returned to pay one last visit to the Trapshooting Hall of Fame Museum located at the ATA headquarters. Returning to what many trap shooters still consider hallowed grounds was bittersweet. I could almost hear the rapid "pop-pop-pop" as shooters shot at the clay targets along the mile of trap fields. My mind replayed the wonderful sights and smells of the Grand American. It was truly part carnival, part county fair, part shopping mall and the greatest shotgun shooting event in the United States.

I loved the Grand American experience. I've shot there although I've nothing more than some photos and memories to show for my efforts. Here I made new friends, wrote about the hot shooter of the year, purchased gifts and got to shoot in the same event on the same fields as the legendary All-American Shooters. I got to root for my friends in the shoot-offs. I watched as young shooters, many from the Greene County area, made their mark winning titles and becoming Junior All-Americans. The move by the ATA to Sparta, Illinois brought those opportunities to an end for me and many area shooters.

In many ways trapshooting is an Ohio sport. The first known or recorded trap shoot was held at the Sportsmen Club in Cincinnati in 1831. The oldest known trophy is the Sportsmen Club trophy of 1836. Since these events pre-date the development of glass balls or clay targets, it is likely that the event used live pigeons as was common until the early 1900s. The invention of glass or clay targets is credited to George Ligowsky, also of Cincinnati. These were introduced to shooters at the New York State Shoot, held at Coney Island in 1880.

The Grand American migrated to Dayton after first being held at Interstate Park in New York City in 1900 and around the United States for several years. The event was held in Dayton in 1913 and 1914 at the National Cash Register Club. John H. Patterson, NCR founder, was influential in getting the event to return to Dayton. The new home grounds for the ATA was established at Vandalia with the 25th Grand American held there in 1924. The Grand American remained here until the Dayton Airport facility terminated the leased land agreement, forcing a move.

The Hall of Fame Museum (HOF), which was dedicated during the 1969 Grand American, is also in the process of moving to Sparta. While that is no surprise to most shooters, it is one more loss to the area. Jim Bradford Jr, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, HOF Museum, explains, "The Grand American is held in Sparta so it only makes sense to have the museum where the shooters are each year. The current building doesn't provide adequate fire and climate control protection. It was decided to put all the items into storage for improved safety. The museum personnel are completing an inventory of the shooting artifacts. This is the first step in the relocation to Sparta. The target date for the grand opening in Sparta is August 2012."

"The process is quite involved. The director and staff are currently completing updated appraisals for the artifacts. The museum pieces will be shipped to an archival storage facility with proper security and climate control. The effort is currently focused on the preservation of these important pieces of our shooting heritage. A land use agreement is also being negotiated with the State of Illinois. We have an architectural rendering of the building. We are currently working on a promotion for a capital fund-raising campaign," concluded Bradford.

There is a only a small opportunity remaining through the end of February to visit the museum. Normal hours are Monday through Friday from 9:00am to 3:00pm. The museum staff is accepting reservations to visit outside the regular business hours. Contact the office at 937-898-4638, extension 528 to arrange specific details. While the museum is moving, the Hall of Fame office and research library will remain in Vandalia.

Outdoor writer and hunter education instructor Larry S. Moore is a long-time volunteer leader for Buckeye Firearms Association and winner of the 2005 USSA Patriot Award and 2007 League of Ohio Sportsmen/Ohio Wildlife Federation Hunter Educator of the Year. Mr. Moore also serves as Greene County Republican Central Committee Member.

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