Quartzsite rocks with upcoming events

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Jorie Parr

From quartz to cacti, an eclectic offering of items is available at the swap meet at Quartzsite, “the rock capital of the world.”
Photo by: Gordon Parr

Rock hounds, mineral mavens, swap-meeters: It’s show time in the little Arizona border town of Quartzsite.

Tyson Wells Enterprises throws its Sell-A-Rama from Jan. 17-26. The QIA (Quartzsite Improvement Association) stages its 48th annual Pow Wow from Jan. 22-26. There’s also an Arts & Crafts Fair presented by Tyson from Jan. 31-Feb. 9. The second annual QIA gold show is Feb. 14-16.

And now there’s also the new, really exciting QIA “Grand Gathering,” a celebration of grandparents, of which Quartzsite has a huge percentage. To extend the season, the venture takes place March 6-9.

Making it into the Guinness Book of World Records is part of the festivities. QIA activist Sandy King says attendees will set a precedent by standing in formation for a huge letter “Q.”

Two hours away

Quartzsite is a thriving RV mecca about a two-hour drive east on Interstate 10. This time of year, the invasion of recreational vehicles from all over the U.S. peaks, swelling the population.

The dozen or so RV camps are full, so folks just strike out in the desert, with the Bureau of Land Management charging a parking fee. About this random panorama, a friend says the white RVs dot the landscape like fields of discarded cotton balls.

Tyson president Kym Scott talked about his main event, the Sell-A-Rama. For those of us not focused on rocks, it offers a wide variety of wares. He mentioned jewelry, clothing, arts and crafts, as well as antiques. There are 2.2 miles of aisle frontage to accommodate the 350 to 400 vendors expected.

“It’s free and so is the parking. But get there early to find a place. About 8 a.m.,” Kym said. (That’s 7 a.m., California time, because, of course, Arizona doesn’t do daylight savings time.) Don’t worry about packing a lunch. There are nine food facilities.

The Pow Wow rock and gem show draws specialists from foreign lands to buy and sell, Sandy King says. And there are demonstrations and field trips into February. She continues with pride, “The QIA is the hub of the town” with daily activities — aerobics, computer classes, crafting, and line, square and ballroom dancing.

Shop till you drop

Open from October till March is the Tyson Wells Market Centre Swap Meet. There are other shops and stalls along the roadside in Quartzsite, but fewer than in previous times.

Some of the remaining regular merchants implied that city leaders had decided casual, open-air conditions were for the birds. Tents even were frowned upon; vendors were now meant to have buildings, incompatible with many nomadic lifestyles.

But that day we didn’t go home empty handed. At one outlet, a soft cashmere argyle sweater in cheerful hues was found with a Neiman Marcus label, priced at $6. The seller let fly she had been going to make her dog a coat from it.

Jo and Lance Barbarick have operated “Treasures From the Past” for 17 years, in the Hi Jolly swap meet cluster. Quality pots and pans, glassware and bric-a-brac are their wares. They’ll be open all the way till April or May.

A visit to Quartzsite should include a fascinating historical site, the Hi Jolly monument. In the 1850s, Secretary of War Jefferson Davis brainstormed that camels would make handy transport in the southwest.

Hadji Ali of Syria, assigned to escort a contingent of the beasts, got as far as Quartzsite. But the war between the states intervened, and Davis went south to become the first and last president of the Confederacy.

Hadji Ali, known affectionately as Hi Jolly, had to turn the camels loose in the desert. Happily, many survived on their own. Turn up Cemetery Road to see the Hi Jolly memorial, a rocky pyramid with a camel silhouette on top, and signs telling his unusual story. Note the adjoining graveyard if you’re a headstone reader.

Kym Scott, a fourth generation resident, tells us that his great-grandparents, who established a trading post in Quartzsite, knew Hi Jolly. Now that’s continuity.

If you go

What: Sell-A-Rama, Jan. 17-26; Arts & Crafts Show, Jan. 31-Feb. 9

Where: Tyson Wells, 100 W. Kuehn St., Quartzsite

Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Information: Tysonwells.com

What: Pow Wow, Jan. 22-26, 9 a.m.- 6 p.m. Wed.-Sat., 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun.; Gold Show, Feb. 14-16, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Grand Gathering, March 6-9.

Where: QIA – Quartzsite Improvement Association, 235 E. Ironwood Information: www.qiaarizona.org