The first time a friend told me about the Mother Lode Mineral Society's Gem, Jewelry and Rock Show in Turlock 20 years ago, I was skeptical. I mean, how fun could it be to go see a bunch of rocks?
But I went and have been a loyal visitor every year since because when it comes to fairs, it, ahem, really rocks.
The show truly is a family event, with something for everyone. It's especially kid- friendly. Organizers have multiple activities going on to keep those restless little minds and hands busy, from treasure hunts to the fluorescent light tent where dull rocks turn vivid neon colors under different lights, to dinosaur fossils which fascinate kids of all ages.
There are stations where kids can make bead bracelets, carve soapstone into necklaces and discover the magnetic properties of hematite. And while the kids are having a ball, they're learning science through the exhibits and the wonderful volunteers who are glad to answer a barrage of questions.
My favorite: the geode splitters. There's something extraordinary about choosing a lumpy ball of rock, and seeing it split in half to reveal a delicate crystalline design that nobody has ever seen before in the history of the universe. You're the first.
For adults, the options are myriad. Vendors offer everything from beautiful one- of-a-kind jewelry and precious gems, to raw stone slabs that rock smiths will shape and polish into some of the extraordinary designs you'll see in the exhibit cases. Roaming those cases and witnessing the workmanship and creativity in stone and metal is inspiring. I've seen flower petals of snowflake obsidian and jade, hummingbirds in fluorite, and amethysts carved into dragons. In a word, art.
The show is a popular destination for folks who enjoy crafting bead necklaces and bracelets, which I do. Long strands of tiger's eye and Brazilian firestone dangle next to jade and freshwater pearls. There are polished cabochons for brooches. You can select individual beads and decorative pieces to create a unique piece.
Guys tend to get engrossed in the vendors' selections of rough stones, and I've seen them grouped about discussing glittering chunks of copper and pyrite, or the different types of opals that shimmer like pearls. Collectors enjoy hunting for the unusual piece from among the hundreds available in every color imaginable. Those seeking large quartz and selenium crystals and polished stone spheres have countless choices.
One thing I have always enjoyed about the show is how nice everyone is. Not only the volunteers, but the guests. Everyone has come to enjoy themselves, and even when it gets crowded, there is none of that impatient tension that characterizes some events.
Every year brings something new, whether speakers, exhibits or activities. Whether you're creative, curious, or just looking for something different to do, come down to the 47th gem show this weekend at the Stanislaus County Fairground. I'll see you there.
Newcorn is an author and freelance writer living in Modesto. Send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHAT: The Mother Lode Mineral Society of California's 47th Annual. Gem, Jewelry and Rock Show
WHERE: Stanislaus County Fairground, 900 N. Broadway, Turlock.
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
ADMISSION: $6, with children 12 and younger free when accompanied by a paying adult.