By Antoinette Rahn
What do a 108-year-old person and an eight-year-old have in common? Quite a lot, if you ask the members of the Victor Valley Gem and Mineral Club (www.vvgmc.org), which is the club both people (108 and 8) belong.
A perfect example of how this club serves the interests of all age groups is the annual Rockhound Tailgate at Stoddard Wells, which is slated for March 13-15, 2020. This marks the 44th year the VVGMC has sponsored this wildly popular event, which often draws a crowd of at least 1,500 and often upwards of more than 3,000, during the three days. It’s become, as club president Dwayna Barron explains, a regular outing not only for club members and residents but visitors alike.
“We have many vendors that have been coming for years, and they rarely miss,” Barron stated. “We’ve heard that several of our vendors do the circuit of Quartzsite, Tucson and Stoddard Wells, then head home or off to their next show.”
Activities for All Ages
With three days of tailgating and rockhounding adventures suitable for all ages, it stands to reason why people choose to make the VVGMC Rockhound Tailgate a must-attend event. In addition to the on-going tailgate, the weekend always involves the Saturday morning field trip.
“Every year we make the short trek to the other side of the mountain to collect tri-colored marble and Verde antique marble,” Barron explained. “There were once mines and quarries in the area that used these materials (to construct) large buildings in Los Angeles and San Francisco. We’re amazed that there is anything left, after all these years.”
Victor Valley Gem and Mineral Club 44th Annual Stoddard Wells Rockhound Tailgate
Date: Mar. 13-15, 2020
Location: 7 miles East of Dale Evans Parkway on Stoddard Wells Rd., outside of Victorville
Visit vvgmc.org/tailgate.html for more information.
Each year the club strives to expand existing aspects of the Tailgate or introduce new elements, and this year one of the new features is a food truck on-site, all weekend. It’s part of what supports and fuels the sense of community, adventure, and encouragement that is prevalent among participants.
“We love to see people shopping, eating, visiting, showing off their finds from the field trip, trading dollars for grab bags from the kids, and challenging each other for that special item in the silent auction,” said Barron. “All of that means everyone is having a good time and we did our job.”
While the club does ask vendors to contribute an item for the silent auction and make a small donation to cover the ancillary expenses, the event is free to the public.
Building on a Solid Foundation
The club’s legendary Rockhound Tailgate is part of a history that spans
more than 70 years. While the club formally organized as the VVGMC in May of 1947, it was the result of an idea that began in 1941, Barron said. At that time, the Dana Club of Los Angeles was seeking people with an interest in rocks, minerals, gems, and the like to help form a branch of the International Gem and Mineral Society in the Victorville area. The initial meeting brought together 15 or so people, including leaders Mrs. Helen Pratt, Charles H. Sumner, and B.R. Dunham. The ideals of the club’s founders, which included promoting interest, exchanging ideas, forming field trips, welcoming others and bringing educational features around the idea of rock collecting, have not only stood the test of time, they remain applicable today.
One of the most significant avenues the club values and utilizes to carry on these timeless ideals is the group’s clubhouse. The clubhouse, as Barron said, is “everything to many of our members. It meets a variety of needs and interests.”
Whether it's gathering socially to discuss rock collecting, participate in the monthly potluck, learn new techniques during an education night, attend various meetings, support, lead and participate in the children’s arm of the club (Petrified Pups), or use of one or many of the items of equipment including grinders, genies, a selection of saws and slab saw, or the burn-out kiln or glass kiln, the clubhouse functions as a hub for this extremely active club. Plus, with six certified instructors among its membership, educational opportunities abound.
Creating and Encouraging Life-Long Learning
“A new member said the other night, that if it wasn’t for the club, she just wouldn’t have the creative outlet she has, nor have access to the equipment and information that’s available, or the opportunity to meet great people,” said Barron.
With these various components supporting and representing the service and ideals of the club, the VVGMC leadership also knows the importance of being organized and investing in the vision. At present, Barron explained, the group has been identifying the club’s needs, looking at the short-term and long-term goals, to create a strategic plan.
A lot has changed since that first gathering of what would become the Victor Valley Gem and Mineral Club, but in many ways, the vision, excitement, and spirit of community that inspired a small group of rockhounds 70-plus years ago is at the center of progress today.
For More Information
Telephone: 760-243-2330 and leave a message or contact Ruben Martinez at 760-490-8263
Clubhouse Address: 15056-B 7th St., Victorville, CA.
Monthly meetings: The education program is the third Tuesday of every month, beginning at 6 p.m. and the monthly potluck and general meeting is the fourth Tuesday of the month, also beginning at 6 p.m.