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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    53rd gem show kicks off in Tucson

    Khalid Elhor, 32, and Hafid Ijams, 36, unpack a crocodile skull along with many other fossils from Morocco. They have been coming to the Tucson Gem, Mineral and Fossil Showcase for the past seven years.
    Khalid Elhor, 32, and Hafid Ijams, 36, unpack a crocodile skull along with many other fossils from Morocco. They have been coming to the Tucson Gem, Mineral and Fossil Showcase for the past seven years.

    The 53rd annual Tucson Gem, Mineral and Fossil Showcase kicks off today and runs though Feb. 6, with the main event – the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show – hitting the Tucson Convention Center Feb. 8 through Feb. 11.

    Ron Swanson, head of booth sales for the gem show, said vendor turnout stays about the same each year, although the number of pre-registered buyers increases by about 3,000 annually.

    Last year, the gem show brought nearly $77 million to Tucson’s economy – a figure that is expected to be matched if not exceeded this year, according to the Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau.

    For the next two weeks, more than 3,500 exhibitors will sell their gems, minerals and fossils at nearly 50 sites in Tucson, said Swanson.

    The Tucson gem show is popular because of Tucson’s good weather and, because Tucson is the first gem show each year, “”it sets the trend for the rest of the show,”” Swanson said.

    The Tucson Gem, Mineral and Fossil Showcase began in 1955 when a group of mineral and rock collectors in Tucson held a free exhibition at a local elementary school, according to the Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau.

    City organizers decided to mold the exhibition into an annual city event, which continues to draw tourists from around the world.

    Carole Schulch, a fourth-year jewelry vendor, said one downfall to such a large show is that it gets harder every year to find affordable places to stay.

    Ken Gasper, owner of The Big Blue House, a bed and breakfast on 144 E. University Blvd., said people started reserving rooms for the gem show in September of 2006.

    It is the busiest time of year for The Big Blue House, and this is probably the case for most bed and breakfasts around Tucson, Gasper said.

    “”Tucson is getting greedy,”” Schulch said, who opted to stay in a hotel this year instead of renting a house like she had done in previous years.

    Schulch said hotels have become a cheaper option, and through her experience, generally have nicer accommodations than homes.

    The Tucson Marriott University Park, 880 E. Second St., also sees a dramatic increase of reservations each year during the gem show. They are very close to selling out their rooms for the two weeks of the gem show, said Crystal Greenwall, a Marriott employee.

    “”We actually get people calling just wanting to stay for business purposes and we have to say, ‘Sorry there is a city event going on’,”” Greenwall said.

    Gem Ride Shuttle Service provides free rides to most of the showcase cites around Tucson from various garage pick up spots. Most lots are open 8 a.m. through 8 p.m. and charge five dollars a day for parking.

    A complete route map can be found at the Tucson International Airport, the Visitor Center at La Placita Center, 110 S. Church Avenue, and at all shuttle stops by Jan. 26.

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