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Rock enthusiasts converge on Madras for annual powwow

At Jefferson County Fairgrounds

by: Photo by Holly M. Gill - Vesta and Ron Williamson, of Corvallis, examine a rock at the annual All Rockhounds Powwow Club of America event at the fairgrounds on Friday. The Williamsons, who attended for the first time, were among dozens of vendors at the five-day event.

For 63 years, rock enthusiasts have converged in Madras for the annual All Rockhounds Powwow Club of America's Rock Gem and Mineral Show, and this past week was no exception.
   Portland resident Steve Falconbury returned to the Jefferson County Fairgrounds June 27 for the five-day show, which ended Sunday.
   "It's a nice trip, the weather's usually conducive, and it's like a big reunion," said Falconbury, who was able to catch up with other returnees. "I see them a couple times a year."
   A self-employed metal fabricator, Falconbury travels the world in search of special gems and minerals to bring back to the shows.
   "I set up and sell pyrites, quartzes -- stones and mineral specimens and occasionally see something to buy," he said.
   The show was a successful one for Falconbury and other vendors. "It's been very good," he said, noting that he was pleasantly surprised. "The people that came have spent some money."
   First-timer Ron Williamson, of Corvallis, of Specimens Unlimited, was just getting back into a longtime interest as he displayed an eclectic assortment of rocks, jewelry, and small paintings on cut stones.
   A retired educator, Williamson and Vesta, his wife of 60 years, were dealers and wholesalers of rocks and minerals in the 1970s as they raised five sons.
   "Now that the kids are on their own, it's time to get back into it," he said, adding that rockhounds are "honest, down-to-earth people."
   "It's a pleasure to be with them," said Williamson, in the midst of only his second show of the year.
   Bobbie Hurd, of Spanaway, Wash., member of the All Rockhounds board, said there were over 80 dealers this year, and many participated in the daily field trips to Richardson's Recreational Ranch.
   "It went great," he said. "We had an average of 30 to 35 vehicles going out to the ranch to dig for agates each day."
   "The dealers did pretty well, but not as well as last year," he said. Nevertheless, "Most all of them signed up to come back next year."