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WEST POINT – A local family will soon be the target of national attention as the popular cable network CMT prepares to air the first episode of a reality series set in and around western Bullitt County’s Knob Creek gun shop and shooting range.
Set to debut with two back-to-back episodes this weekend, “Guntucky” follows the commonwealth’s first family of firearms, the Sumners, who have led Knob Creek for half a century.
Perhaps best described as “loud and colorful,” three generations of Sumners star in the 10-episode series from Leftfield Pictures, the producers of the hit reality show “Pawn Stars.”
Led by Gran-pa Winfred “Biff” Sumner, 75, who quit his job making $120 a week at a local hardware store in 1963 to take over what was then a remote shooting range off Highway 44 in rural Bullitt County, the show also features Biff’s ever-reliable son Kenny, who has overseen the day-to-day business of Knob Creek since his father handed him the reins in 1980.
Now in his early 50s, Kenny remembers well when the gun-totin’ Biff asked him to run the shooting range at the age of 20.
Kenny wasn’t exactly eager to take on the responsibility, but he enjoyed the idea of being his own boss.
“He told me it was mine to make or break and ever since I’ve been making it,” Kenny said.
In the three decades Kenny has been at the helm, the facility has earned international fame as the home of the biannual Knob Creek Range Machine Gun Shoot and Military Gun Show, which draws thousands of visitors from all over every spring and fall.
The secret to Knob Creek’s success and longevity, Kenny said, is the hard work and dedication put into it.
Chad Sumner, 30, who co-stars in “Guntucky” along with his father, Kenny, his Gran-pa Biff, his self-proclaimed “oddball” uncle, Steven Sumner, and his cousins, Stephanie and Payton Sumner, is no stranger to what it takes to run the family business.
A 2000 graduate of Bullitt Central High School, Chad grew up at Knob Creek, learning how to sell, evaluate and fire anything with a trigger from the time he could hold a gun.
“I’ve worked on the range since my dad could throw a shovel and a cash register at me,” he said.
From repairing and maintaining the range to assisting customers and selling firearms and ammunition, Chad has done it all.
Because Knob Creek is essentially a mom and pop shop with only around 10 full- and part-time employees including the Sumners, Chad said it was the strong work ethic instilled in him by his father that has helped him endure the long hours and the hard work.
“I’ve got a lot of lash marks on my back from him crackin’ the whip,” Chad kidded, adding that his first recollection of helping out at the range was picking up trash as a 10-year-old Nichols Elementary student.
Despite the hard work, Chad said there was little else he’d rather to do, joking that he felt put down when his father told him to “get a real job” with benefits shortly after he graduated high school.
Now a fulltime fire fighter in Louisville’s Portland neighborhood, Chad still works at Knob Creek as sales manager.
What’s kept Chad in the business for so many years? A passion for firearms and shooting.
And of course, as he explained, Knob Creek is the Sumner’s livelihood.
Add to that the long-standing tradition behind Knob Creek, and its importance, not only to Bullitt County but to the entire region, filling hotels and restaurants and contributing to the local economy with every event.
Though Chad said he would love nothing more than to spend his days at the range with his family, Kenny doesn’t plan on passing the torch to his son any time soon.
“In this business, you don’t retire until they throw dirt on you,” Kenny said with a chuckle. “I’m gonna keep going until I croak, then I’ll leave this nightmare to Chad.”
As for how Chad felt when CMT sought the Sumners to star in a major cable network reality series, Chad said he was in disbelief, adding that the family had a blast filming “Guntucky,” which premieres Sunday at 9:30 p.m.
In the first half-hour episode, Chad’s uncle Steven teaches his son Payton that shooting up dad’s property comes with a big price, while the rest of the crew tracks down hard-to-find collectables.
Meanwhile, Gran-Pa Biff has some bad news for the owner of a seemingly rare weapon; and two excitable brothers come to the range to blast their ratty old fishing craft into Boat Heaven.
In the night’s second GUNTUCKY episode, the Sumners agree to stage an epic Civil War re-enactment, while Gran-pa Biff has Steven examine and test-fire a very valuable rifle.
For those who can’t wait to watch the first episode, a special sneak peek can be found on CMT’s Web site. Just go to www.cmt.com/show/guntucky/series.