AUGUSTA — Maine mining enthusiasts and mineral collectors were shocked to learn Tuesday that the annual Maine Mineral Symposium has ended.

Organized 22 years ago under the Maine Geological Survey under the Maine Department of Conservation and a volunteer committee, the spring event was a great opportunity to view and learn about Maine minerals. It also showcased new finds and was a mix of interesting talks, exhibits, vendor displays and field trips, almost always to Oxford County mines.

“We have done it for as long as we can,” Woodrow “Woody” Thompson, a Maine geologist and president of the Maine Mineral Symposium Inc., said Tuesday on the symposium website.

“We think it’s better to go out on a high note or, as Neil Young put it, ‘It’s better to burn out than to fade away.’”

No reason was given for the decision and attempts to reach Thompson to explain were unsuccessful Thursday.

Thompson said the corporate status will be maintained “to protect the name and reputation of the event, and to spend remaining funds in a way that will benefit the mineral collecting hobby.”

“What a bombshell! Never saw it coming,” Dan Levesque, a Maine mineral photographer and collector from Auburn, said Thursday by email. He has attended the past five or six symposiums.

“I was never let down by the programs, its speakers, displays and the multitude of vendors.”

Levesque said the symposium “certainly gave mineral enthusiasts an opportunity to get together with old friends or meet new ones and enjoy great field trips.

“This void will be difficult to fill. They say all good things sooner or later come to an end. The symposium will surely be missed by all,” he said.

Longtime symposium committee members, mining enthusiasts and mineral collectors Van King of Rochester, N.Y., and Robyn Green of West Paris were equally stunned.

“I’m very sad to learn that the Maine Mineral Symposium has suspended operations,” King, a Skowhegan native and frequent presenter, said Thursday by email.

“I specifically say ‘suspended’ in the belief that it may return. My hope that it will return is that of all the places in the world where I have given public lectures, home has always been best,” he said.

“Over the 22 years the Symposium has been in existence, I’ve been invited to present some aspect of Maine mineral study and history in every one,” King said.

“Nowhere else in the world would someone care whether Mount Mica was supposedly found in 1820 as alleged by folklore or that it was actually discovered on Oct. 18, 1821.”

Green, who served on the committee for 17 years, said the symposium was a great way to socialize with and learn from other people interested in Maine mining and minerals.

She said a huge gem find in 1989 at the Bennett Quarry in Buckfield led to the first symposium in spring 1990.

On Oct. 7, 1989, brothers Ronald E. Holden Jr. and Dennis Holden, and Gary Laverdiere found a gem-quality morganite beryl that was named “The Rose of Maine,” Green said.

The gem was split into three pieces, with one chunk going to the Smithsonian Museum, one to the Harvard Mineralogical Museum, and the other was cut up for gem stones, she said.

She said curator Carl Francis from Harvard didn’t want that to happen again and asked Thompson to start a Maine mineral symposium like the one in Rochester, N.Y. Ron Holden was one of the speakers of the first Maine symposium.

“I think at the time that it was a great networking tool and, socially, it brought a lot of people together and educated a lot of people, but I think there are so many other resources now that are available to us,” Green said.

“Hats off to Woody and all others involved for bringing us this exceptional event for so many years,” Levesque said.

“The decision to abruptly suspend the annual meeting has done much to fuel a rumor mill, especially in Oxford County where many of the Symposium’s field trips occur,” King said.

“While many have attempted to suggest that ‘outside forces’ were also at work, it doesn’t appear to be true. We in the naturalists community hope that ‘new blood’ is all that is required to revitalize the symposium to its stature as a leader in the U.S.A.”

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