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What you need to know for 06/25/2017

Marchione: Spa City gun show slated for May

Marchione: Spa City gun show slated for May

City Center will host event, after controversy in 2016
Marchione: Spa City gun show slated for May
Patrons examine shotguns during the Saratoga Gun Show at the Saratoga City Center, in Saratoga Springs, on Sunday, Aug. 21, 2016
Photographer: File photo

SARATOGA SPRINGS — David and Cathy Petronis' youngest of three children was 13 when the husband and wife first brought their gun show to the City Center in 1984.

"He just turned 45, so it's a long relationship," said Cathy Petronis, referring to New Eastcoast Arms Collectors Associates' partnership with the City Center, which has resulted in a few Spa City gun shows yearly for 32 years. "They've watched our kids grow up as they've watched our shows grow from one room to fill the main hall."

Last year, however, that relationship was tested. Following opposition from residents and local politicians, the couple was told by the City Center Authority that there were no weekend dates available beyond its August 2016 show, leaving its future in Saratoga uncertain.

But on Wednesday, Sen. Kathy Marchione, R-Halfmoon, announced its return to the City Center, with dates set for Memorial Day Weekend on May 26, 27 and 28.

"It's going to feel like being home again," Cathy Petronis said.

During the show in August, Marchione circulated petitions at a table under a banner with an image of her firing a pistol. She also collected signatures online and, in October, delivered 2,464 signatures to the City Center Authority Board and asked its members to let the show go on.

"Since 1984, hundreds of thousands of proud, patriotic gun owners have walked through the doors of the Saratoga Springs City Center, visited the gun show, exercised their God-given Second Amendment rights and supported our local economy," Marchione said in a prepared statement. "This is a wonderful victory for gun owners and for our Second Amendment."

Mayor Joanne Yepsen, who was among the gun show's detractors last year, disagreed. She said nearly 1,500 city residents have signed a petition stating their dissatisfaction with a gun show being held on public property in the downtown area. She said they would prefer to see events more in line with the city's "family-friendly character."

"To be clear, this reinstatement of one gun show is not about the protection of the Second Amendment," she said. "This is more about disregarding the wishes of the residents of Saratoga Springs."

Ryan McMahon, who took over as executive director of the City Center this month following Mark Baker's retirement, said the conflict came down to scheduling. He said the center was booked for 261 days last year and is expected to be booked as many as 270 days in 2017, which doesn't leave many open weekends. He said the center also gives preference to convention-style events, which fill up the city's hotels and call for catering, over trade shows.

"It looked to me like it wasn't going to be coming back," McMahon said. "We have a very full schedule, and there aren't a lot of weekends available. David has been doing events here for 30-plus years He was one of our very first clients and we want to see all our clients succeed -- and if we can help them with that, we do."

He added, "When the weekend opened up, the authority said, 'We'll go back and talk to David.' "

David Petronis, president of NEACA, said he was disappointed when he was told there were no dates available. He said Marchione was instrumental in "changing their mode of thinking up there."

He wasn't sure what changed the City Center's mind -- whether it was pressure from Marchione's office, pressure from gun-showenthusiasts calling their office, or requests from him. He acknowledged the City Center's busy calendar and its preference for conventions.

"I'm just glad we're back, and my membership is going to be thrilled," he said. "Thousands of people have gone to that show, and I hope thousands of people continue to go to our show in Saratoga."

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