Every winter, the tiny town of Quartzsite transforms into the vendor capital of the world. More than a million visitors congregate to browse through swap meets, gem shows, art and crafts shows as well as scores of other booths offering antiques, souvenirs and “stuff” of all kinds.
Many visitors from the north, affectionately called “snowbirds,” spend the winter in Quartzsite’s 70-plus RV parks or “boondock” in the Sonoran Desert on BLM land, where camping is free or nearly so. Others arrive for shorter stays — rockhounds and treasure hunters from around the world who come to check out the shows.
Beautiful weather, sunshine and great deals — what more can you ask for?
Adding to the fun are numerous events throughout the season, including the Hi Jolly Daze parade on Jan. 9, the Sports, Vacation & RV Show Jan. 16-24, the QIA Pow Wow Gem & Mineral Show on Jan. 20-24, and the annual ATV Parade on Feb. 13.
Besides a warm welcome, Quartzsite also offers wonderful activities to fill your time when you need a break from shopping: golf, hiking, fishing, four-wheeler excursions, jam sessions, dancing, bingo, a visit to Celia’s Rainbow Garden and the Hi Jolly Monument.
Two dozen seasonal swap meets and nearly as many shows cover acres of land, include hundreds of vendors, and present an amazing array of items. This year, according to one local resident, the quality of goods offered is exceptionally high and the prices are great. It’s the year to come experience Quartzsite.
First stop: Tyson Wells with three major shows
Located on the southwest corner of Interstate 10 and Highway 95, the Tyson Wells Showgrounds is one of Quartzsite’s biggest draws. More than 25 acres are covered with hundreds of vendors, and 2.2 miles of aisle frontage give visitors easy access.
The fun begins right on New Year’s Day with the Tyson Wells Rock & Gem Show. Rock enthusiasts from around the world head to this huge show where almost 300 dealers offer quality minerals, gems, fossils, jewelry and lapidary tools. Show dates are Jan. 1-10.
Next is the Tyson Wells Sell-A-Rama on Jan. 15-24, where some 500 dealers showcase an unbelievable variety of items: antiques, coins, crafts, hobbies, jewelry, even more gems and rocks, and great food.
Following is the Tyson Wells Arts & Crafts Fair from Jan. 29-Feb.7, offering creative, custom and handcrafted works by about 200 national artisans.
Admission to all of these events is free.
To find out more about the vendors, check out the Web site at www.tysonwells.com or call (928) 927-6364.
A great deal: $1,000 for the best chili in Quartzsite
All you chili and salsa lovers, mark your calendar for Feb. 27. That’s the day to polish off your best recipes for the seventh annual “It’s Chili in Quartzsite” Chili Cookoff & State Salsa Championship. Held at Tyson Wells Showgrounds, this event attracts entrants from all over the U.S.
The cook-off actually consists of three different contests: the Chili Appreciation Society International event, a showmanship contest, and the People’s Choice Award competition. CASI entrants earn awards and points toward their international finals in Texas. Winners of the People’s Choice receive trophies and cash prizes.
Cooking starts at 10 a.m. and the $4 tasting cup goes on sale at noon. Visitors will determine who wins the People’s Choice $1,000 first prize, $500 second prize and $250 third prize.
There will also be several winners in the state salsa championship.
Live bands add to the fun throughout the afternoon, and a big raffle is sponsored by the Quartzsite Business Chamber of Commerce. Call the chamber for information on the cook-off, (928) 927-9321.
Quartzsite does it again: “Naked Man’s Bookstore”
A must-see attraction in this funky desert town is Reader’s Oasis Books. Owner Paul Winer offers an eclectic mix of paperback, hardcover and audiobooks for every taste and interest, more than 180,000 titles in all — dressed in a thong with a smile for all and the motto “If books were clothes, I’d be considered well dressed.”
Known as legendary performer Sweet Pie back on the East Coast and Canada in the 1970s and ’80s, Paul plays a mean boogie and blues piano. Check out his CD “Please Remember Your Love for Me.”
The store carries all types of music, including an expanded section of blues, early jazz and swing, and classic country-western CDs, cassettes and vinyl.
An authors fair takes place daily throughout January and February, with writers present for book signings. Reader’s Oasis is located at 690 E. Main St.; for more information, call (928) 927-6551. Reader’s Oasis is open seven days a week, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.