The Alafia Long Rifles muzzle loading club held their first Alafia River Rendezvous January 1972 at the old Tampa Police Range off Hayes Road in Pasco County celebrating their first anniversary of their founding. The Alafia Long Rifles had 42 members. Their rendezvous was a big success that generated recognition around Florida.
In 1972 the Alafia River Rendezvous attracted 85 shooters. The top shooters were; Steve Vienup, Cheves Dixon, and Moon Mullins. Bob Huff finished in 7th place, George Sharp was 9th, and Clint Oak was in 13th place. Barbara Vienup shot in the men’s rifle competition and finished in 16th place. Barbara also shot the aggregate and won the women’s championship.
In 1975 the Alafia River Rendezvous consisted of 25 matches and 9 aggregates, There were 98 registered shooters. Mike Belle won the over aggregate, and Barbara Vienup won all the ladies’ events. All shooting awards were merchandise prizes. Of the 98 shooters, 27 were from out of State.
In 1977 a local television channel filmed the Alafia River Rendezvous for the first time. 134 shooters registered for the event. Primitive campers, who some of the members referred to as “primates,” and traders still were a necessary evil.
In 1979 the Alafia River Rendezvous attracted 185 shooters. Mike Belle continued to win all events.
In 1980 the Alafia Rendezvous recorded 216 off-hand rifle shooters; 79 pistol shooters, 13 musket shooters; 18 women shooters and 17 juniors. The last Alafia River Rendezvous was held in 1983 when property owner Jack Lyons notified the Alafia club to vacate the property because the property was going to be improved. It was the intention of Lyons to develop a golf course on the property. The Alafia range was dismantled in February leaving the club with no place to shoot.
The Alafia River Rendezvous from 1971 through 1984 was a very successful endeavor as a shooting event. It was always intended to be a shooting event and not a rendezvous as it is now known. The Alafia members were not interested in primitive shooting or camping. The “rendezvous” aspect grew over the years because of the shooting.
Charley Knight, a major property owner in Hillsborough County, hearing of the loss of the Alafia River Long Rifle shooting site, offered the Alafia club the use his property off Keysville Road in Keysville, FL. Lee Betz, President of the Alafia Long Rifles, declined the offer based on his concerns about the survival the club. Through Clint Oak, the Florida Frontiersmen contacted Charley in hopes that he would offer the use of the property to them. Charley Knight offered his property for a 1985 Alafia, and the Frontiersmen accepted. Charley suggested that the rendezvous name remain the same, and that it be scheduled on the same dates used by the Alafia River Long Rifles.
At that time, the Florida Frontiersmen had eighteen members, $27.55 in the treasury, and were paper punchers with no rendezvous experience. Only a few of the eighteen members had been to a rendezvous. In addition to these handicaps, they also had no place to shoot. The work weekends preparing the site was an important factor in keeping the club together.
Florida Frontiersmen John Brabham had experience with Indian Powwows and Lee Betz had rendezvous experience. John was appointed Booshway and Lee was appointed co-Booshway of the 1985 Alafia River Rendezvous and Indian Powwow. Since the Frontiersmen didn’t have the money to finance the Alafia, Lee Betz provided the necessary funds.
A few Alafia River Long Rifles members joined the Frontiersmen and were of great assistance in the execution of the rendezvous. Their help was really appreciated at a time of difficulties because of the range losses.
The first Alafia by the Florida Frontiersmen was called, “The First Alafia River Rendezvous and Powwow.” The event attracted 172 total camps. The Indian Powwow was great fun, but was financially a disaster. The rendezvous generated enough money to repay Lee Betz and still leave a profit of $4.54.