Rockin’ it

SAYRE – A crisp, blustery day was no match for the lure of sparkling crystals and ancient fossils on display last weekend at the Che-Hanna Rock and Mineral Club’s 45th annual rock and mineral show.

Traditionally, 1,000 to 1,200 people attend at least one of the two-day event, which was held March 22 and 23 at the Athens Township Volunteer Fire Hall, 311 Herrick Ave.

“For the whole area, we’re the first show of the year,” said Hazel Remaley, who has been a club member since 1994,

She and her husband, Marv, have a deep interest in minerals and both collected and bought specimens over the years for their personal enjoyment and, later, to sell at shows such as this one.

“Our personal collection started with fluorites we found in Elmwood, Tenn., and Illinois,” she said.

They started making “trees” out of polished rock chips and “everything sort of blossomed,” Hazel said.

“We’ve been selling now for 10 or 11 years,” she added. “I like the interactions we have people.”

The Remaleys have plenty of repeat customers who buy mineral specimens, geodes or the rock trees from the couple. They love to share their collections, but “there are certain pieces that I would hate to see go,” she said.

The show offered a variety of activities for all ages, especially children.

Bob McGuire, perhaps better known as UV Bob, had several presentations on fluorescent minerals; a mini-mine gave kids a chance to find their own specimens; and Bill Klose, of the Paleontological Research Institute in Ithaca, N.Y., identified fossils.

Club members gave demonstrations of cabochon making and faceting.

Many vendors had stands set up to sell their wares – minerals, gemstones, fossils, jewelry, hobby supplies and beads. And, most of those sellers have a strong interest in the items they sell.

Steve Carter, of the Scranton area, owns a business called Penn Minerals that specializes in minerals harvested in Pennsylvania.

“As a kid in the fourth grade, I asked … Santa Claus for a banana bike and a rock hammer,” Carter said. “I got both.”

He visited coal mine spoils in his hometown to look for fossils of ferns.

“One day I found fool’s gold – pyrite – and then I started collecting minerals,” he said.

Some exhibits of minerals, gems and Indian artifacts were behind glass, and lock and key.

Marc Wilson, head of the section of minerals at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, brought a new collection of minerals recently acquired from Bryon Brookmyer, of Mechanicsburg.

“Bryon is one of the foremost field collectors in the country. He is an example of what an average guy can do with dedication and perserverance,” Wilson said.

“The museum had an extensive collection that dated from colonial times to about 1950,” he added, “but Bryon’s collection is very heavy in specimens collected from 1960 to the present.”

The collection numbers about 2,700 minerals, all from Pennsylvania, Wilson said. The museum acquired them in a combination sale/gift.

“It’s a major thing for the museum. We now have one of the most comprehensive collections of Pennsylvania specimens in the world,” he said.

The Che-Hanna show is the first public appearance for a handful of the new specimens, which were paired with some of the older, museum-owned minerals in an exhibit aptly titled “The Old and The New.”

“This collection is of great historical importance,” Wilson said.

Other unrelated cases held a collection of Herkimer diamonds, double-terminated quartz crystals mined in and around Herkimer County, N.Y.; tools and arrowheads once used by Native Americans; and a variety of fossils.

Finding a mineral or fossil in an outcropping, mine, quarry or streambed isn’t a hard task.

“No matter where you travel, you can find something interesting,” said Bob Becker, owner of Stone Corner, of Hudson, N.Y.

He’s been collecting since he was 5 years old.

“It’s a fascinating hobby,” he said, adding that he loves the crystalline forms, shapes and colors of minerals.

Becker was one of the original vendors at the Che-Hanna show and has returned “for 30 years or more.”

This year, he was accompanied by his son, Jeremy, who also enjoys the family hobby.

Gemstones and minerals are “nature’s art,” Jeremy said.

In another room of the fire hall, a tile saw with a diamond blade buzzed throughout the day, slicing natural geodes in half, right in front of visitors who could pick and choose which rock to purchase. Small geodes were available for a few quarters, while the largest stones sold for bigger bills.

Geodes often are formed in volcanic environments but also can be sedimentary. They are round and form as a result of gas bubbles that are trapped inside rock formations. Whatever minerals are in the gases or sediment can grow into crystals, designs and colors that vary as to the area in which the geodes are found.

Most geodes for sale at the show came from Mexico, said club member Barb Dugan, of Watsontown. In the U.S., geodes can be found in Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky and Utah.

Dugan long has had an “interest in rocks, in their different forms and shapes,” she said.

Angelina Mueller, 12, of Rochester, N.Y., stood in line patiently as the geode she picked out was sawed in two. The procedure only took minutes, then the halves were dried and placed in a paper bag.

Mueller is the next generation of women who have an affinity for rocks and minerals.

“Our mother started us with rocks,” said Denise Brotzman, of Athens. She is Mueller’s aunt.

“She loved crystals,” added Denise’s sister, Barbara Mueller, who is Angelina’s grandmother.

The geode that Angelina chose came from Chihuahua, Mexico, and had a sleek, gray interior.

“The pretty ones come from Mexico,” Dugan said.