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The Main Event I

This year was the 45th annual Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, aka the "Main Event" show, hosted by the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society and held in the Tucson Convention Center. An estimated 30-40,000 people from all over the world attend the "Main Event" and of course it is very popular with the locals. This is the show that started it all back in 1955 and has subsequently spawned several dozen satellite shows which are organized and held by independent promoters.

The total attendance for the combined Show(s) is estimated to be in the neighborhood of 100,000 rockhounds, and the conglomerate "Tucson Show" is Tucson's largest tourism related event, spinning off an estimated $40,000,000 dollars into our local economy. That figure concerns support related business for Tucson's motels, restaurants, cab drivers, retail sales tax et al and doesn't factor in the "rock money" which leaves town with the dealers at the end of the Show.

I hate crowds and standing in line, which is what you get to do if you want to get first shot at the primo and gonga specimens at the opening of the Main Event at 10 am. I normally avoid the opening and show up elevenish, but this year I patiently suffered through to get a couple of rockhound crowd shots for my report. Tough job, but somebody's got to do it... ;)

Above left is a view of the main floor at the Convention Center, taken at T minus 10 seconds prior to the opening of the doors at 10 am on the first day, Thursday Feb. 11th. This is the last few seconds of relative quiet the several hundreds of dealers and exhibitors are going to enjoy on the floor for the next four days. Ready or not - 9, 8, 7, 6...

Above right is a view from the floor, taken down a corridor which divides the main floor into two major areas - the "M" side for minerals and fossils, and the "G" side for lapidary, gems, and jewelry. Running up and down the length of this corridor were nearly 150 public display cases harboring a diverse range of competitive and educational displays. We'll be peeking into a number of them later in my coverage of the Main Event.


A number of exhibitors were displaying in booths located in a hallway just outside the entrances to the main floor of the Convention Center. While I was waiting for the opening line to clear I stopped and visited with John Dohrenwend and some of his Landsat satellite derived images at the Earth Portraits from Above & Beyond booth. John is involved in quaternary geology, geomorphology, remote sensing, digital imaging processing and environmental mapping and terrain analysis. His Earth Portraits images are full color, Landsat Thematic Mapper(tm) image maps. They present beautiful unobstructed views from 440 miles above and centered on popular natural areas in the United States and Mexico. These are specially processed by John to emulate and enhance natural colors. Most were available as very frameable 27 x 39 inch high resolution images laminated with a satin finish plastic for protection. They cost $80.

I've been doing research and planning for an upcoming series of excursions into the Grand Canyon so I asked John if he had done one of Grand. Of course, and he's on the left side of it in the picture above left. Needless to say, this one was a bit larger than the 27 x 39 inchers and quite a bit pricer at $400. Ouch, ouch, ouch... but what a beauty! I don't know how yet, but mark my words - I'm determined that I'm destined to have a Dohrenwend Grand on the wall in my home office for Bob's Rock Shop. After all, the Shop's very first banner incorporated a high altitude NASA image of the Grand Canyon. Now that favorable weather and water conditions for the first of my expeditions is drawing near, I really need one of these, know what I mean?

Shown above right is some close-up detail on John's San Juan River, Utah image, which overviews Monument Valley, the Goosenecks and Grand Gulch. This one takes in some of the most remote, inaccessible and still unspoiled country in the continental United States.

I thought John's handsome images really drove home the fractal nature and interaction of the Earth's geology and weather. I was first introduced to the concept of fractal mathematics and the use of it to elegantly characterize and describe seemingly chaotic natural processes a decade or two ago. The descriptive power and ideas behind fractals entirely revolutionized my world view and thinking about natural processes, causality, art, the universe, God... the whole cosmic enchilada, really. If you're wondering what the heck is a fractal, I highly encourage you to get thee to the local library or bookstore and treat yourself to a read of Chaos, Making a New Science by James Gleick, Penguin Books, ISBN 14 00 9250 1. I guarantee you will never look at the world quite the same way again after you've learned to see fractals.

Above left is a close-up of a John Dohrenwend rendition of a high altitude view of a 'shoreline' fractal, the Escalante National Monument. That's Lake Powell, created by water backed up by the Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado just upstream of the Grand Canyon. Above right is my own rendition of a 'high altitude' view of another 'shoreline' fractal depicting Benoit B. Mandelbrot's set. I've spent a few years exploring with computers down in Seahorse Valley, for those of you who know where that's at...

Among the other images on display at the Show and available from Earth Portraits were images of the Colorado River Delta in Sonora, the Zion, Bryce and Cedar Breaks area in Southwest Utah, Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado and Death Valley in California and many other places of significant geology and natural beauty.

Earth Portraits from Above & Beyond John C. Dohrenwend, Ph.D. Email: dohrend@gci-net.com Snail 5755 East River Road #3207, Tucson, AZ 85750 Phone: 520.577.7801 Fax: 520.670.5113


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Tysons' Fine Minerals
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