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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

A visit to the National Preppers & Survivalist Expo in Gonzales

Posted By on Wed, Mar 8, 2017 at 4:30 PM

click to enlarge Leonard Lamar of the Louisiana Chapter of the Zombie Eradication Response Team talks to David Brackman (wearing glasses) about the products at his Self Defense ATL booth. - IAN MCCUSKER
  • IAN McCUSKER
  • Leonard Lamar of the Louisiana Chapter of the Zombie Eradication Response Team talks to David Brackman (wearing glasses) about the products at his Self Defense ATL booth.

Attendees at the seventh annual National Preppers and Survivalist Expo weren’t shorted on exotic lessons on how to survive an assortment of doomsday scenarios — ranging from natural disasters to nuclear attacks to every actual or perceived danger in between.

What was in short supply at the two-day event in Gonzales’ Lamar Dixon Expo Center this past weekend were attendees. Apparently, Armageddon-like events aren’t high on southeastern Louisiana’s radar this year.

“This is the slowest show I’ve done in nine years,” said exhibitor David Brackman, who drove 10 hours from John Creek, Georgia, to provide Louisiana women with materials and skills to defend themselves. The trip cost him several thousand dollars, he lamented.

Brackman, 65, worked for more than three decades in the printing business, but said he retired when keeping up with changes in the profession became too expensive. He sold his business 12 years ago and began selling self-defense products, such as stun guns, after he heard about a woman who was kidnapped and killed while hiking the Appalachian Trail.

A booth at the expo cost between $855 and $2,100, depending on size.

click to enlarge Bill and Elizabeth Hogan practice suturing and stapling a pig’s foot  during a seminar on wound care at the National Preppers and Survivalists Expo in Gonzales. - IAN MCCUSKER
  • IAN McCUSKER
  • Bill and Elizabeth Hogan practice suturing and stapling a pig’s foot during a seminar on wound care at the National Preppers and Survivalists Expo in Gonzales.

Acadiana Tactical Firearms bought a booth to promote their services, which include training for concealed carry and classes on self-defense. Damian Leger was scheduled to conduct a seminar on hand-to-hand combat for up to 50 people on Sunday, but cancelled after no one signed up for the class.

“The organizers told us the last show had 8,000 in attendance,” said Leger. “It turned out they were counting people from the gun show in one of the other buildings.”

Leger added that some exhibitors were considering a complaint to the Better Business Bureau.

The mood around the Lamar Dixon Expo Center was far from doom and gloom, however, despite the event’s focus on preparing for the end time. Nowhere was that clearer than around Doom and Bloom, run by Joseph Alton, a physician, and nurse Amy Alton.

The husband and wife wrote The Survival Medicine Handbook. They sell medical survival kits and even created a board game so that parents can help prepare their children for disasters.

“Our audience is families who want to be prepared,” said Amy Alton.

Elizabeth was among the 16 participants in the Altons' Sunday class. Elizabeth said she and her husband, Bill, work as paramedics in the Ann Arbor, Michigan area and they were drawn to the expo after seeing an advertisement in the magazine American Survival Guide.

The Hogans took turns suturing a pig’s foot under the guidance of Alton, while the other watched their 10-month-old daughter, Marianne, play with blocks and stuffed animals. Eventually, Melisa Mink offered to let her daughter, 10, supervise Marianne so that the Hogans could take full advantage of the class.

Mink herself was an exhibitor and taught a class Saturday on soapmaking. Her Homestead Momma business sells a variety of wellness products, including essential oil kits.

She says it concerns her that preppers and survivalists are portrayed as crazy. Preparing for worst-case scenarios makes sense, she insists.

“Look what happened with Katrina,” said Mink, referencing the government’s response to the 2005 hurricane and chaos that ensued in its aftermath.

click to enlarge Dan Neville of Thug Busters demonstrates how to use a slip of paper that changes colors when it detects a drink is drugged. - IAN MCCUSKER
  • IAN McCUSKER
  • Dan Neville of Thug Busters demonstrates how to use a slip of paper that changes colors when it detects a drink is drugged.
Attendee Leonard Lamar visited the expo with several friends, all of whom are members of the Zombie Eradication Response Team (Z.E.R.T.), an international organization that prepares for disasters. He was quick to point out that “zombie” should not be taken literally.

“It’s a metaphor for any disaster that will occur in our lifetime,” said Lamar, and he also points to Hurricane Katrina as exhibit A. Despite the low attendance, Lamar was succinct in his review of the event. “We love it.”

Still, many exhibitors felt differently, while maintaining an upbeat attitude. Dan and Lise Neville began Thug Busters as part of a “crusade to keep women safe.” That crusade ended temporarily early Sunday.

The Nevilles began packing up around 1 p.m., just when they were scheduled to give a class on the uses and differences of stun guns and Tasers.

“We’ve had enough abuse,” said Dan with a smile.

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