BETHEL — Imagine a place where you can find an array of rocks, crystals, minerals, gems, fossils, petrified wood, jewelry and petrified dinosaur dung, all in the same place — and you can even touch them. That’s what the 55th Annual Western Maine Gem, Mineral and Jewelry Show in Bethel offered its visitors on Saturday.

Telstar High School played host to the funky expo of local and international finds, with more than 300 people in attendance. 

Vendors were situated at separate tables, each labeled with their company name or nickname denoting the collector or group of collectors.

Of these, “The Three J’s” were in the center of the action Saturday — Joseph Karwoski and his grandsons, Josh and Jared Zanelli — with a vendor table full of a variety of gem and mineral specimens, including an Apophyllite stone from Mumbai, India. The trio assisted patrons and interested attendees, directing them to the gems and jewelry that best fit their needs.

“I’m a transient vendor,” Joe explained. “I like being here. Dennis Gross is great organizer.”  

He made the 2 1/2 hour drive in the rain to attend the show for his second year.

“It’s an enjoyable show,” he said.

“It’s fun,” Josh said. “I enjoy it. My job is to look over the rocks.” 

Their jewelry is mainly imported from China, India and Thailand, while many of their stones are directly from the Mumbai area.

Liz Beauchesne of Andover, a show volunteer and member of the Oxford County Mineral and Gem Association, said she was pleased with the turnout.

“The rain has made us very busy this year,” she said.

“This is the 55th year of the show and the club,” Beauchesne said. “It’s a two-day show and we’ll have all the same vendors tomorrow. But it changes every year.”

She said most of the 14 tables were repeat vendors. They hail from all over Maine, New England and Montreal to show off their collections.

All vendors donated at least one item for an hourly drawing. The prize for the final drawing was a necklace worth $350.

“There’s something for everyone, children or adults, in any price range.” There were raw or polished stones, slabs, wood carvings and toys, and smaller gems placed in jewelry.

“I think it’s one of the best shows we’ve had in a long time, with the specimens and the big turnout,” added Shirley Davis of Auburn, a longtime member of the Oxford County Mineral and Gem Association. “People are just showing a greater interest in minerals. It’s exciting.”

Dennis Gross, show chairman and organizer was pleased about how many people had come to the show, so early in the day. Gross is the owner of Mineral Collector on Bryant Pond and a lifetime member of the Mineral and Gem Association.

“We’ve been so busy,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for 45 years, and this is probably my best year here.”

In addition to buying, selling and trading, Gross is also an active field collector. 

The Western Maine Mineral and Gem Show continues Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Telstar High School in Bethel.

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