BARSTOW — Looking for rocks in the Mojave Desert is just like going to the annual Gem & Mineral show held at the Cora Harper Fitness Center. You just never know what you will discover.

"An ordinary rock doesn't look like anything, but then you cut it open and it's beautiful," La Vella Tomlinson said. She is the secretary of the Mojave Desert Gem and Mineral Society of Barstow.

Besides all the educational exhibits and live demonstrations throughout the show, youths get free grab bags that always contain hidden gems. Third and fourth generation Barstow residents are bringing their grandchildren for the $1 grab bags filled with rock and mineral treasures.

"We see adults get grab bags. They don't have junk rocks. They have good stuff," Tomlinson said.

The show is in its 42nd year and starts at 10 a.m. and ends at 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free.

There will be displays of rare and beautiful gems and minerals most made by the local rock club members. Walt Wright, world-renowned paleobotanist, will display his petrified wood. Special silent auctions will be held on both days with raffle prizes on Sunday afternoon.

Dealers from all around the country bring unusual jewelry, petrified wood, minerals from around the world, gemstone carvings and spheres. Tomlinson said the Gem & Mineral show is considered a great place to shop for some unique gifts of jewelry, books on Earth sciences, beads and rough rocks.

Proceeds go to a local scholarship fund. Last year the Mojave Desert Gem and Mineral Society of Barstow awarded three scholarships to graduating local high school students.

Mike Lamb can be reached at 760-957-0613 or You can also follow him on Twitter @mlambdispatch.