DECATUR – There's no better way in these parts to cement a New Year's tradition than with a steaming bowl of ham and beans.
At least that's what Tricia Harmon decided a few years ago after she followed her husband out to the Decatur Gun Club on the north end of what used to be Faries Park and got involved.
An annual Fun Shoot on New Year's Day was already entrenched, but the 125-year-old club is always looking for ways to diversify its mostly male membership.
Gesturing inside the clubhouse to the names of earlier generations of members printed overhead, Harmon said, “That's our past, but families are our future. We just needed somebody like me to volunteer to cook.”
Rick Harmon is currently the vice president of the gun club, and his wife is the secretary.
About 100 people decided to eat ham and beans and start 2015 off with some bangs Thursday, aiming their shotguns at targets streaking across a mostly clear blue sky.
“This is a time for the guys to come and hang out as we get ready for the start of our winter league,” Tricia Harmon said. “We'll have 170 people out here shooting on Sunday.”
The skeet and trap shooting offered outside the rustic clubhouse, a work relief project built in the waning years of the Great Depression, tends to attract bird hunters.
Indeed, President Wayne Steele said he'd hunt doves full time if he could afford it.
“I'm a water fowl hunter,” Steele said. “We have everybody from bankers to laborers who get together because the camaraderie is really great here.”
The club has produced some award-winning Scholastic Teams and shooters, including Joel Ashburn, a 2014 graduate of Taylorville High School.
Now that Ashburn is attending Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, his mom Cheryl Ashburn is trying to follow in his footsteps as her husband's shooting buddy.
“Jeff gave me a 28-gauge shotgun in October,” she said. “I've been watching them shoot for years, and it looked like fun.”
The Taylorville trio was among the participants in Thursday's Fun Shoot.
Cheryl Ashburn said the family didn't really have have a New Year's tradition before this year.
“I think this will be it,” she said.