Rocks of ages for all ages

The annual River Valley Rockhounds show that kicks off Saturday will celebrate the club’s 50th year of gathering fossils, minerals and other interesting rocks.

To celebrate the milestone, according to club President Robert Wolf, “it will be bigger, with more programs.”

It will also be free.

There will be more room for dealers because of the show’s new location in the Iowa Central Community College Career Education Building.

“The dealers are required to give programs this year,” Wolf said. “This is something different we didn’t do before.”

One dealer will have a fluorescent presentation in a dark room, Wolf said.

Show Chairman Jim Baumer said there will be presentations on flint-knapping, jewelry-making and rock tumbling – “How you take a rough little rock and smooth it out and polish it” – and one on the Mount St. Helens eruption of 1980.

“There’s one on gem tree making. That’s wire wrapped up to make a tree trunk and branches, then little gems on the ends, like leaves or fruit,” Baumer said.

And, as always, kids will get free specimens.

“That’s one of the things we’re famous for,” Baumer said. “Children bring egg cartons, and get 12 different specimens of various kinds of rocks and minerals, sometimes fossils.”

There will be hourly door prizes for adults and kids, donated by dealers. There will also be a sale to benefit the Rockhounds.

Wolf will have a display of things he found in the Sioux City area, such as fossil clams and fish. He said he plans to give away fossils at the show.

“I have these small fossil brachiopods, and I’ve got these little white boxes. I thought I’d give them away as a ‘brac in the box,'” Wolf said. “Fossils are really popular with kids too.”

Ed Christensen is one of the charter members of the group.

“We were just interested in rocks, you know,” Christensen said, “and we decided we’d like to have a club, and that was about it.”

The group started with eight or 10 members who would travel to different places and hunt rocks.

“We had a list of places we could go, and I know one guy quite a ways west of here, a farmer, oh, he had rocks on his farm,” Christensen said. “He said, ‘I don’t want you breaking any rocks.’ A lot of times, everybody carried a hammer. We’d break a rock and if it’s no good we’d just throw it away. He said, ‘If you break rocks, take them with. If you break a rock I’ve got two rocks instead of one.'”

Christensen is not a member any longer, but he still makes it to the shows.

“Once you start hunting those things,” he said, “every time you see a pile of rocks you look them over.”