The Southern Celebrates 25 Years


This April, when the community of shotgunners gathers for its rites of spring at Deep River Sporting Clays, in Sanford, North Carolina, the Southern Side by Side Championship & Exhibition will be celebrating its own rite of passage, marking 25 years since founder Bill Kempffer went “all in” with an event for double-gun enthusiasts. The four-day competition, exhibition and gathering of the tribe, from April 25 to 28, promises to be a powerful homage to the founder’s vision and persistence and to all those who’ve helped sustain it.

Plus the Southern is just plain fun. Casual and accessible, free to attend and gaining appeal that skews younger and more local, the event has grown to four days to accommodate more shooting in the comfort of an agreeable climate. In addition, the popular Challenge Cup event will again bring together Parker and L.C. Smith enthusiasts in a friendly rivalry of classic American shotguns.

The Southern’s anniversary comes with that pandemic asterisk, as the event was not held in 2020. That year also brought closure in Bill Kempffer’s retirement, finalizing the sale of Deep River to longtime manager Ed Strickland.

For Strickland, the right way to mark 25 years was obvious: “We really need to pay homage to Bill and [his wife] Mary, who had the vision and fortitude to bring this event to us all and keep it going.” With enthusiastic support from founding sponsor Atkin Grant & Lang, the Ripon Cup—the trophy for the Southern’s main-event sporting clays competition—will be retired this year. Instead, this year’s Southern Side by Side champion will receive the Kempffer Cup. And a growing community of shotgunners will continue into the next quarter-century.

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