‘Rocking’ out again

Benny Westcott

For the first time since 2019, the Oregon Jamboree’s not the only rock extravaganza in town. 

That’s because, following a two-year COVID-19 hiatus, the (very) long-running Sweet Home Gem & Mineral Show is back in full force. 

This 72nd edition is scheduled to run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 26, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 27, inside the Activities Gym at Sweet Home High School, 1641 Long St. This year features a silent auction for various rocks, plus a raffle and snack bar. Admission is 50 cents, but children 12 and under are free when accompanied by an adult. 

Joe Cota, who owns Rock Castle & Cota’s Lapidary in Lebanon and has chaired this much-anticipated, well-regarded Sweet Home Rock and Mineral Society event for 15 years, is excited to return. 

“It’s great. You almost forget how to do it,” he said with a laugh, adding that folks are “starving for the rock hobby.” 

If he no longer recalls exactly how to put the annual show together, luckily, he has a lot of history to fall back on, because it’s the longest-running event of its kind in the state. 

“There’s no one really close to it,” he said. 

According to Cota, at least 3,000 people typically visit over the course of a weekend. Some 12 rock and gem dealers and 20 to 25 display cases are featured this year. Crystals and gems will be buried in a sand pit for people to dig through and find. Grab bags containing such items as tumbled stones, fossils, agates, jaspers and petrified wood will also be sold. 

“We usually bring at least a thousand and sell out before Sunday at noon,” Cota said of the latter. 

Along with its traditional linchpin, the nonprofit Sweet Home Rock and Mineral Society boasts a full slate of fun activities, including an August barbecue and Christmas bazaar, plus rock-collecting “field trips” a couple times a year. Admittance to the club is $10 per family. For more information, contact group president Ed Anderson at (541) 451-2740 or email [email protected].

“There’s a lot of local rocks around Sweet Home and Lebanon,” Cota said, noting the existence of petrified wood, carnelian rocks, agate and jaspers. Notably, there’s also holly blue agate, which he described as “world-famous,” adding, “It’s almost considered a gemstone.” 

Much like a certain beloved institution making its grand return.