Friday, May 9, 2008

Michigan rocks at this year's gem and mineral show

Filed under The News Herald : At first glance, collecting rocks might not seem like the most exciting hobby, but there's more to it than meets the eye.

Apart from the thrill of unearthing new and interesting stones, collectors learn the history and geological makeup of different regions.

"Rocks aren't just black and gray," club President Dick DePodesta said. "It's about the beauty of nature and the rarity of the rocks."

For those who think rock collecting might not be their cup of tea, DePodesta encourages them to give it a chance.

"My wife got me started and the more I got into it, the more I liked it," he said.

The Midwest Mineralogical and Lapidary Society's annual gem and mineral show draws hundreds of people to the Southgate Civic Center every year.

"It's not necessary to buy to go to one of these shows," he said. "You can just talk to the dealer and find out about what you're looking at."

But some people might wonder what goes on at such an event.

Showcases of collectors' favorite rocks of all sizes, shapes and colors line the aisles, with awards bestowed on collectors with the most educational, most beautiful and most interesting displays, among others.

"In the past, we've had moon rocks and cases of jewels," he said.

An exhibit of dinosaur fossils was a big hit several years ago, he added.

Sulphur, celestine and quartz are among the minerals found in collections.

Celestine, a favorite among mineral collectors with its sky blue color, is one of the unique finds in the mineral kingdom.

"Michigan Rocks" is the show's theme this year, focusing on the background and history of rocks and minerals found in the state's parks, lakes and roads, including Petoskey stones, Lake Superior agates and datolites.

"It's been a long time since we did something special on Michigan," he said.

A special emphasis is put on attracting children to the annual event.

"The whole idea is to get them interested so they can keep this hobby going," DePodesta said.

There will be 20 dealers and free mineral kits for children.

Students in third through eighth grades and their teachers can visit the show for free during "Kids' Day" next Friday.

Activities abound for the tykes and include spinning a mineral wheel to win minerals and visiting the "gold mine" to dig through sand for minerals.

"They can go to the Minerals for Miners table to pick out minerals, there're grab bags with special tickets to turn in for free prizes, and they can wander through the dealers to buy things at kid prices," he said.

About 700 students are expected to come through this year.

That exposure helps the club achieve its primary purpose — to promote interest in the fields of mineralogy, geology and paleontology, including lapidary and related arts.

Jewelry and bead making, silversmithing and the art of cabochon — rounding and polishing gemstones — are some of the group's activities.

Founded in 1956 by a group of people who met at a local rock shop, the club boasted more than 200 members at one time, but interest has dwindled over the years.

DePodesta estimates that about 117 people are active today in the club, which meets the third Tuesday of each month, except in July and August.

Those two months are special times for the group to search for more prized specimens.

"We take off and go collecting rocks all over the country," he said.

Members go on digs to search quarries, beaches, parks and roads around the country for unique and interesting finds.

For some, that means a trip to Hungry Hollow in Canada to look for fossils or a jaunt to the Red Metal Jamboree in the state's Upper Peninsula to search old copper mines.

And each member is required to undergo safety training to enter the mines and quarries.
"None of the quarries will let you in without that anymore," DePodesta said.

A monthly newsletter, annual banquets and speakers are part of the club's activities.

The 2008 Gem and Mineral Show will take over the Southgate Civic Center annex, 14700 Reaume Parkway, from 4 to 8 p.m. next Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. May 17 and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 18.

Admission is $4 for adults, $3 for senior citizens and $1 for teenagers.

For more information about the show, e-mail, call Mike Bomba at 1-313-381-8456 or Norm Hanschu at 1-734-455-8596.

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