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Gem, Mineral and Jewelry Show continues to draw big crowds.

Byline: marta prudent contributing writer

Voluminous crowds turned out for the 55th-annual Southern Illinois Earth Science Club's Gem and Mineral Show at the City of Marion Pavilion last weekend.

Show Chairman Mike Chontofalsky said he has been working the two-day event for the past 25 years, and people look forward to the show.

"It's yearly, in April, and the date may vary. We get a lot of repeats that come and they always say, 'Oh, I always look for it in April.'"

SIESC invites new members to join its not-for-profit organization, and encourages an interest in the various fields, which include mineralogy, geology, paleontology, archaeology and lapidary arts.

"The vendors pay for space at the show, and that money is used to sponsor the show; that's the backbone of our show," Chontofalsky said.

He said the club's membership stretches from the Mississippi River area to the Ohio River region, and SIESC was established in 1961. Annual dues are $15 per nuclear family or individual.

"We go from river to river," he said. "We have members all over southern Illinois. We meet in Benton the first Thursday of the month at the Benton Community Center."

Chontofalsky is from Centralia, and taught chemistry and physics at the high school level. He is eager to share his passion for science with others, especially the large numbers of children who visited the pavilion.

"There were over 500 kids last year, and about 1,200 to 1,300 yesterday," he said. "We may have about 600 to 800 today. We've had a steady stream come in -- very good attendance."

Popular attractions included jewelry vendors, along with collections of natural crystals, artifacts, fossils and shells. There were concessions, game booths and door prizes.

Every child 12 or under was given a free turn at the "Spin and Win" wheel, which always landed on a prize. Kids received rocks, crystals, minerals and plastic dinosaurs.

Southern Illinois University graduate student Joseph Krienert volunteered to operate "The Augmented Reality Sandbox," which proved to be one of the most popular displays at the event.

A real sandbox with projected images of various landscapes, it allowed children the joy of getting dirty for the sake of education. Krienert fielded myriad questions from countless curious kids, and both his patience and knowledge seemed rock solid.

SIU funded the construction of AR-Sandboxes for instruction during on-campus classes, and also for community outreach opportunities.

Marion resident and CPA Tenney Naumer is a registered gemologist who lived in Brazil for 14 years. Her beautiful collection included special gems that can be used for jewelry. She specializes in Brazilian tourmalines.

"The main audience here is more for minerals than loose gemstones, but I'm having a good time talking to people about gemology," she said.

Naumer has specialized in internet sales of her product, and recommends that buyers find skilled jewelers to set the stones. It can be difficult to find such artisans, but Naumer directs her customers to Your Jeweler in Marion.

Marion natives Chuck, Carolyn and Christy Hays made a family outing of the event on Sunday afternoon. Daughter Christy attended last year and appreciates the artistry involved in jewelry making.

"I like the gem stones, usually ... I'm not an artist, but a dabbler," she joked.
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Publication:Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Date:Apr 18, 2018
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