By Ezra-Mel Pasikatan
From June 28 to July 2, the Jefferson County Fairgrounds drew rockhounds from all over the world for the All Rockhound Powwow Club's annual Gem and Mineral Show.
Former president of the All Rockhound Powwow Club Charles Williamson boasts of enthusiasts who are coming this year and in previous years from all over the United States and other countries such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Scotland, the Philippines and England.
Williamson said the show had 80 vendors and expected about two to three thousand visitors.
An avid rockhound himself, Williamson inherited the hobby from his father, who took him on field trips to hunt for rocks over a period of well over 50 years. This was well before companies started producing rockhounding equipment and findings (mountings for the finished rocks or gems) so he used to make them himself.
He has traveled to all but two states in his rockhounding trips: New Hampshire and Vermont.
"You qualify yourself as an instructor over a period of time," said Williamson adding, "people are in the club who have the expertise to teach people almost anything they wanted to do (with the rocks)".
Williamson himself has had experience in making many of the diverse assortments of products which can be found for sale at the powwow, from bookends and brooches to bracelets and watch bands.
The All Rockhound Powwow Club used to rotate the location of their largest event of the year, but, "Madras treated us so good that we decided to make this the location of our big powwow," said Williamson.
The club's "big event" is also a social event for the rockhounds. Williamson told the Pioneer, "There are lots of fellowship things going on, like entertainment, bingo and potluck."
The club has local bands play for them as part of the entertainment they put on every night.
The Madras area was also chosen as a central location by the All Rockhound Powwow Club because their liaison Darrell Friend has established good relations with the ranchers.
The club has field trips to different ranches to collect the many locally available rocks such as thunder eggs, jasper, agate, quartz, opal and rhyolite.
About 250 to 300 All Rockhound Powwow Club members are expected to go on the field trips the club will host. The club collects a per pound fee to pay to the ranchers for the material it collects.
Rockhounding is "very profitable," said Williamson. "Many come here to get their material."
Williamson said a pound of rock which can be bought at the digging site for a dollar could be polished into several cabochons which could be sold for about $5 each.
"You get something that will make you happy, and yet qualify you to be profitable if you do good work."
Besides the fiscal rewards of the hobby, Williamson said a priceless gem can be found when one becomes a rockhound. "A friend in the rock club becomes a gem too," said Williamson, "The friend becomes a gem in your life."