Wyoming Rocks! Rock clubs gearing up to host mineral and gem show

Posted 5/23/24

As the May meeting of the Shoshone Rock Club was brought to order last week by club President “Lapidary” Gary Olson, there was a heavy, serious vibe in the air. Hosting the state mineral …

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Wyoming Rocks! Rock clubs gearing up to host mineral and gem show


As the May meeting of the Shoshone Rock Club was brought to order last week by club President “Lapidary” Gary Olson, there was a heavy, serious vibe in the air. Hosting the state mineral and gem show takes months of hard work — especially when half of your venue was transformed into a library just a few weeks before the big event.

The show is being put on by the Shoshone crew, the Cody 59ers Rock Club and the Wyoming State Mineral and Gem Society; the first time in years that the event has been held in Powell. This year, the Powell Library is also a partner, helping to make sure Homesteader Hall works for everyone involved as well as assisting in advertising for the show.

Originally, the library was going to move to the hall after the Park County Fair. Construction demands modified the schedule, requiring the move to happen months earlier than planned. Yet, the event chairpersons for the show were happy to accommodate the scheduling change and found a helpful partner in the library staff. They are also exploring other areas of the fairgrounds if needed, depending on the weather.

“If it’s nice, we’ll have a couple activities under the pavilion,” said co-chair Cindy Cordova while going over plans for space for the many activities, speaker series and vendors planning to make Powell their home May 30 through June 1.

There is a lot of excitement by both clubs for this year’s featured speakers, including Stan Groves offering an introduction to Wyoming minerals; Ned Kelley with a special presentation on catch and release rockhounding in Yellowstone National Park; Erik Kvale with tips on the hidden secrets in the Jurassic period of the Big Horn Basin; and Christopher Doorn discussing critical minerals in the state. All four of these experts, three with doctorates, have decades of experience rockhounding in the Cowboy State and are a great resource for those who search for gems and minerals or hope to start a new hobby.

The show will also feature fun displays of regional finds, vendors galore and multiple activities for children. Saturday is officially Kids' Day at the show with special activities, presentations and door prizes all geared toward young rockhounds. Those under 12 can enter the show for free.

One of the most popular features at the show will be the rock identification table. How many times have you found a cool rock and wondered what exactly what it is? Bring your specimen in and get an identification by Clarence “Doc” Ellis, a retired Bureau of Mines geologist and expert on Big Horn Basin rockhounding. If the specimen is still a mystery, the Wyoming Geological Survey will also be available to run elemental analysis on your rocks with their portable X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy device. The device is a non-destructive analytical technique used to determine the elemental composition of rocks — revealing almost everything about your treasured gems and minerals.

“It is a huge help with identifying rocks and minerals,” said Ilene Olson, who is charge of advertising, press releases and collateral materials needed to let rockhounds around the region know about the special dates.

There will also be daily field trips, including a guided educational trip to Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area. Show planning began last year, but the hard work began at a fevered pitch in November, Olson said.

“The show will be huge,” she said, saying it will take all the volunteers available to help make the show a success.

Coordinators have arranged to have several food vendors available, including Bayou Express, Nahrin’s Kitchen, Mann’s Kettle Corn and Smoothies, Island Paradise and Get Loaded BBQ.

Members from both clubs will be worn out by the time they help tear down the show late Saturday, she said, but both are excited to host the state show despite the hard work.

Once finished with planning, retired geologist Gregory Jones, who is also the Cody club’s president and a member of the Shoshone Rock Club, took the podium along with an exciting display of minerals from the Basin and club members perked up like robins after a spring downpour.

The entire club gathered around his and Kelly’s displays and inspected the minerals, learning where they were found and getting their hands on the regional finds. They also engaged in a spirited debate about the difference between minerals and rocks. The passionate conversation hit a crescendo when Jones brought up jade.

“There's not such a thing in geology as Wyoming jade,” Jones said, at which point the club — made up of geologists, gemologists and amateur rockhounds reached full engagement.

Their passion for minerals and gems and both clubs’ willingness to share their secrets of rocks in the Big Horn Basin and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem should make this one of the best mineral and gem shows in years.

For more information: cody59ers.com, wsmgs.org for the Wyoming State Mineral and Gem Society and the Shoshone Rock Club is on Facebook and the show’s official site is BighornBasinRockShow.com.