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A Gem of a Show: Rocks, Dolls & Dinosaurs
by Beverly Dennis

Looking for something different to do? Well, listen up all you rock hounds and jewelry enthusiasts!

The Annual Verde Valley Gem & Mineral Show is becoming one of Northern Arizona’s most enjoyable events, each year growing bigger and more interesting. This year’s extravaganza takes place on March 23 and 24, at Cottonwood’s Mingus Union High School. The show is co-sponsored by the Mingus Gem & Mineral Club and the Oak Creek Gem & Mineral Society

Several thousand visitors are expected between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Sunday.

Just a few of the exciting gem and mineral exhibits this year include a great black-light display; dealers offering competitive prices on minerals, fossils, beads, gems, and jewelry; supplies for those of you involved (or interested in getting involved!) in the craft; demonstrations; hourly raffles for fantastic prizes; continuous silent auctions; and numerous displays by club members and invited special exhibitors. In addition, there will be a spinning wheel game to help keep the children entertained. Especially exciting is the extraordinary prize for this year’s Grand Raffle - a $2,000 malachite specimen from the Congo, donated by Ramsey’s Gems & Minerals of Sedona.

The Arizona Science Center in Phoenix, Sedona sculptor Michael Trcic, and Mother Nature’s in the Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village, joined forces to provide one of this year’s most dramatic exhibits. A 10-foot long, life-sized sculpture of a dromeasaur - created by Trcic and on loan from Mother Nature’s - is similar to the small carnivorous dinosaurs in the movie Jurassic Park and is depicted in mid-leap, prior to landing on the skull of a triceratops. Although  the creature was just over 10 feet from nose to tip of tail, the fearsome predator’s long, muscular legs and huge claws enabled it to hunt down other dinosaurs many times its size. The skull - courtesy of the Arizona Science Center - is positioned with horns pointing directly at the attacking dromeasaur. All in all, it is quite an impressive exhibit!

And as if that’s not enough, NASA, in conjunction with Arizona State University, will have an interesting, in-depth exhibit on the planet Mars, and the Grand Canyon State Woodcarvers, the El Valle Artists, and the Northern Arizona Porcelain Painter’s Guild will also be displaying and selling their work.

Something for the kids

With all of this going on to amaze, entertain and tempt the adults, there will be gifts for the children too. In fact, 36 exquisitely carved Russian nested dolls will be given out as prizes. Nested dolls are a far cry from today’s mass-produced Barbies, taking much talent and time to create each one.

The first Russian nested doll was produced in 1890 in Abramtsevo near Moscow in the Children’s Education workshop. They are called “Matryoshka,” from the old Russian “Matryona” or “Matriosha,” a popular female name. The Latin root “mater” means mother. Matryoshka was adopted as a symbolically appropriate name for the wooden figurines, each one smaller than the previous and nestling inside, one on another.

The woodcarving and painting process is complicated and involved, requiring much time and a high degree of skill. The artist carefully selects a lime or birch tree that is cut into logs and allowed to age and dry for several years. When the log is ready, it is cut into workable pieces. The artist takes no measurements - it is his intuitive skill and expert use of the turning lathe and tiny knives, chisels and tools that eventually fashion a doll from the wood. Hollowing out the center is done with as much precision as shaping the exterior so the dolls fit together precisely. At that point, the snow-white wooden dolls are ready to be cleaned, primed, and coated with a starchy glue, and finally painted to brightly colored perfection.

All things considered, this year’s show promises to be great fun and is actually four shows in one: art, porcelain painting, woodcarving, and, of course, the gem and mineral show itself.

The Annual Verde Valley Gem & Mineral Show is one of the best club-sponsored gem shows in the United States with the majority of admission fees benefiting the host’s Student Aid program. Last year, more than $1,000 donated from the show helped Mingus Union High School students who would not otherwise be able to participate in sanctioned school activities. Funds may be used to buy textbooks, sports uniforms, necessary medical and dental services, and other items and/or services for needy students.

Admission to this event is only $3 for adults; children under 12 and students 12-18, with a school ID, get in free. You won’t want to miss this exciting event!

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