You don’t have to be a rockhound to get something out of the Flagg Gem and Mineral Show, says organizer Ray Grant. It’s designed to appeal to people other than hard-core hounds.
“If people have the slightest interest, they can come out and learn a lot,” says Grant, chairman of the Arizona Mineral and Mining Museum, which sponsors the weekend event. “I think it’s a great opportunity.”
What’s more, that opportunity comes at the bargain price of “free,” he points out.
“We don’t charge admission and we don’t charge for parking,” he says.
The event, in the west parking lot of Mesa Community College, will have more than 80 booths manned by dealers and local clubs, he said.
Also on display will be three stone tablet treasure maps from the 1800s, which some say lead to the Lost Dutchman Mine.
Because organizers of this year’s event put an emphasis on children, the tablets inspired a treasure hunt for children ages 3 to 7, Grant says. The winner of the hunt, which will take place throughout the weekend, gets the grand prize of a class trip to the Arizona Mineral and Mining Museum.
Kids can also start their own mineral collection with specimens given away or sold inexpensively by local rock clubs.
“There’s a lot for everyone to do, but especially for kids,” he said.
Mardy Zimmerman of Tempe, treasurer of the Arizona Leaverites, said her club’s mission is to get children interested in geology. The club has long had a booth offering children the chance to fill an egg carton with 12 specimens (from 300 collected by the club) for $1.
“It’s a fun presentation,” Zimmerman says. “We have kids come back year after year to add to their collection.”
In fact, they’ve had about a dozen kids who started their collections at the $1 booth go on to join the club, and two who started there go on to become geologists. Other groups at the show have similar success stories, which has made it a hit for the past 36 years, she says.
“This is a fun show for people who are just starting,” she says.
Start your hunt
You don’t have to go far to find rocks, says Mardy Zimmerman of Tempe, treasurer of the Arizona Leaverites club. There’s a lot of hounding to be done in and around the East Valley. Remember to avoid trespassing and, when on public land, follow laws on what you can take from where — there are limits to how much you can take of some minerals, Zimmerman says.
The dry river beds of Maricopa County are great places to find rocks — especially bits of quartz, says Zimmerman. “The dry washes are great. All sorts of stuff ends up in there when the rivers run.”
In Queen Creek you can find striped marble. “It’s beautiful: striped green and pink and beige,” she says.
Between Apache Junction and Superior you can find so-called desert roses, a white rock called chalcedony that’s a kind of quartz.
Between Superior and Globe you’ll find copper. “There are a lot of copper mines out there. You can’t go into the mines, of course, but you’ll find places where people started digging and abandoned,” she says.
Between Mesa and Payson on state Route 87 you’ll find large granite boulders, says Zimmerman, and near those boulders you’ll find small pieces of granite, usually speckled black and white.
36th annual Flagg Gem and Mineral Show
When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today through Sunday
Where: Mesa Community College west parking lot, 1833 W. Southern Ave.
Information: (480) 814-9086 or azminfun.com