If you’re looking for something a little different to do this summer, why not check out the Western Film Fair and Nostalgia Convention taking place in Winston-Salem, North Carolina on July 13-16? It’s a great chance to step back in time, relive the glory days of the old wild west, and meet stars of those days. Dr. Fred Eichelman gives us a glimpse into what to expect.
First, tell us a little about yourself and your role with the Western Film Fair.
I am a retired teacher and director for Point North Outreach, a Christian media organization and editor of its publication Point North Tidings. For thirty years, my wife Carolyn and I ran media events in the Roanoke Valley of Virginia, the last one being ten years ago.
We enjoy media conventions and an author friend, Paul Dellinger, encouraged us ten years ago to attend a Western based event in North Carolina titled Western Film Fair. What impressed us is that their board and staff are all dedicated Christians and care about the fans.
They have autograph tables, panels, and films they run 24 hours each day. The films are mainly Western, but sometimes they will be new films connected with certain guests. You will find a number of tables with people selling memorabilia, everything from books and films to toys. The climax is an awards banquet which will also have musical entertainment.
We go largely to support friends as guests there and to help with various parts of the film program. We have had the pleasure of bringing stars to the event who find this a new experience and they like to return. Some of them include Kathy Garver, Deanna Lund, Caroline Munro and Nancy Stafford whom have been involved in events we used to run here. I have to add that those four will be here October 1 for our Media Event Reunion. Others we have gotten to this event in recent years include Grace Lee Whitney, BarBara Luna, Connie Stevens, Sandra Elise Williams, Jenn Gotzon and Tony Senzamici.
How has the event changed over the years?
This is the 39th year for the event which actually began in Memphis, Tennessee. It then moved to Charlotte, North Carolina for several years and the last few years it has been in Winston-Salem. There has been a change in emphasis and this is reflected by a name change a year ago. Because so many beloved Western stars have gone to the great bunkhouse in the sky the guests now are a mixture of folks from different genres. It is now The Western Film Fair & Nostalgia Convention.
What do you consider the highlight of the fair each year?
That is a hard one to answer as there are a number of things. First, I would have to say meeting and making friends with many new people. The event is not too big so you have plenty of opportunity to visit and socialize with the guests. The banquet program is also very special. It must be added that it is fun to bring out the cowboy and girl in folks like us who dress Western.
Tell us about the film contest. What kinds of films are you looking for?
This idea came up last year when a couple of us were told that Westerns were out of style and someday Western conventions like this would be no more. So last year we began the contest and this will be our second year. We have invited one and all to submit short films, 40 minute or less, to be judged with a $1,000. first prize. While we would hope the films would be Western, they do not have to be. We have a packet with full information we can email to folks interested. The deadline is May 15. All they have to do is send their requests in to firstname.lastname@example.org. Our drama teaching daughter Carol Eichelman Webster is in charge of that.
Who are some of the stars that will be attending this year’s event?
There are nine so far with three more expected at least. Nancy Stafford (Matlock) will be returning for her third time and I am very excited about one I recruited for them who everyone will wish to talk with. That is Dodie Rogers, the youngest daughter of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, and her stories will enthrall everyone. Some of the other guests are Geoffrey Deuel (Chisum, Bonanza) whose fan club will be coming, Kristy McNichol (Family, Empty Nest), Fred Williamson (Star Trek, Starsky & Hutch),Kathleen Cody (Dark Shadows, Gunsmoke) and Bobby Crawford (Laramie).
What are you most excited about this year?
I am most excited about a program that began last year that I have been able to help with. Lisa Bennett, CEO for Victory Television and Radio, arranged for four TV interviews with guests, conducted by Nancy Stafford. This drew so many onlookers that the board for the convention asked for Lisa and Nancy to put on a two hour live audience interview show that this year will be a part of the program. This is something we have never seen in a convention and Carolyn and I have easily been to 200 across the nation. Lisa’s radio shows are not left out as you may expect her radio interview stars John Baldwin and Dottie Coffman to be involved. My job is to line up the guests and make sure the program setting is right. Carolyn will help, though she was asked by Dodie Rogers to help her and that is an offer that cannot be turned down.
I just have to put on my cowboy guise to say I am plumb delighted to jaw about this here show and short film contest.
Wrangler Fred as I am known on our Group Page