"It started off as a rock swap," said Tellus Executive Director Jose Santamaria. "All these different collectors would just get together and trade mineral specimens and then a lot of them started setting up to sell their wares as well. More and more of the public came -- they really didn't have stuff to swap -- they just came to look at stuff and to buy mineral, fossil and jewelry specimens.
"So we kept calling it the rock swap for a long time and then we decided that it was a misleading name. Then in the meantime, we're doing a lot more educational stuff. We're doing kids' activities [and] mineral identification, so we thought a name change would be good. So sometime within the past 10 years we changed it to Rockfest. ... We have not seen much [rock swapping] going on lately. What we are seeing is families coming in and getting their kids interested in collecting so they'll buy some things. There are also some serious collectors coming in because we're going to have vendors from all over the country."
During Rockfest, vendors will be selling unique specimens of minerals, fossils and gems. The event, which is regarded as one of the largest mineral and gem shows in the state, will be held June 12 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and June 13 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It also will include mineral identification, music, food vendors and children's activities ranging from playing dinosaur bingo to painting pet rocks.
"We have about 38 [vendors]," said Tellus Administrative Assistant Michelle Pate. "Most of them are from Tennessee and Georgia. I have a couple that are coming from New York and a couple from North Carolina. They are going to be bringing a lot of different types of minerals and fossils and they're going to have quite a bit of jewelry that's made from minerals and fossils and semiprecious gems. I think one of the reasons the public will love to come is they'll get to see larger specimens than you're used to seeing in the normal shop and there will be a variety of all kinds of different things.
"There's just a ton of different kinds of gems and minerals and fossils that they'll get to see. ... I know that Bill Mitcham is one of our vendors. He's been with us for a long time and he usually brings pretty large amethysts that come from Georgia, come from south Georgia. He actually donated one to the museum. It's the Georgia Belle and it's on display in the Weinman Mineral Gallery," she said about the baseball-sized amethyst. "So he has a lot things that are from Georgia that are really interesting for a lot of people."
Opened in January 2009, Tellus was officially named a Smithsonian affiliate in September and has attracted more than 200,000 visitors. Encompassing 120,000 square feet at 100 Tellus Drive in Cartersville, the museum is comprised of four main galleries -- The Weinman Mineral Gallery, The Fossil Gallery, Science in Motion and The Collins Family My Big Backyard -- a 120-seat digital planetarium and an observatory equipped with a 20-inch telescope.
"We like to have events that focus on a particular aspect of the museum," Santamaria said. "So we've had Astronomy Day events. We had an event last year associated with the Solar House. So this really falls right in line because we have a very extensive mineral exhibit and we have a large fossil gallery. So the event really deals with the Earth science, with minerals, fossils, with gems and a lot of educational activities related to that.
"It also gives the public the opportunity -- we do sell a lot of our specimens in the store but we're going to have about 45 or 50 different vendors that are going to be selling a lot of different specimens and jewelry and a lot of things we don't have in the store. So it will be a very unique opportunity for the public to see a lot of different merchandise."
For more information about Rockfest, call Tellus at 770-606-5700 or visit www.tellusmuseum.org. Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for senior adults and $8 for children. The event is free for Tellus members.