AUGUSTA — Rocks have a long history of being used for passionless descriptions. Consider the expressions “stone deaf,” “stone cold” and “stone dead.”

But looking at stones, it turns out, creates endless amounts of passion.

“It’s so much fun to collect rocks,” said Waterville’s Ron LePage, the founder and chairman of this weekend’s 26th Annual Rockhounders Show at the Augusta State Armory. “We’re very enthusiastic about it.”

That enthusiasm exuded from the hundreds of people, young and old alike, who turned out for Saturday’s opening. The show, which also runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, includes 19 vendors from Maine and five other states, including Ohio and New York. With prices ranging from less than a dollar to several hundred dollars, the show featured something for everyone, even West Gardiner’s Karen Nichols and her three grandchildren, brothers Seth and Nolan Nichols, ages 6 and 10, and their 11-year-old cousin, Molly Nichols, who were captivated by a large assortment of fossils.

“This was the best place to come,” Karen Nichols said. “They’re interested in everything, but especially dinosaurs, bugs and fossils. They’re just so excited.”

Getting children excited about rocks is part of the motivation behind the show, LePage said. A member of the Kennebec Rocks and Minerals Club, LePage said the graying club is eager to attract the attention of the next generation of rock hounds. LePage has incorporated games for children, small “mines” to dig through and exhibits to explain how the rocks are shaped and polished, as part of the show.

“We get a lot of young people,” LePage said of the club meetings, which happen at 7 p.m. the third Friday of each month at Kennebec Savings Bank on Main Street in Winthrop. “We’re trying to get youngsters to get into the hobby. That’s the future.”

LePage has collected rocks with his son for the past 30 years. The search has taken him all over the Northeast and into Canada. His prize find – to date at least – is an amethyst crystal he discovered in the Oxford County town of Stow. The gem is about 12 inches by 9 inches.

“It’s huge,” LePage said.

Oxford County and the Topsham area are two of the hottest spots in Maine for rock collectors, LePage said.

“Maine’s a good location for rocks,” he said.

Nichols, who has attended the Rockhounders show before, said it gave her a chance to share her love of gems with her grandchildren.

“The polished gemstones, I think, are my favorite right now,” she said. “The fossil fish are gorgeous.”

LePage started the Rockhounders show 26 years ago because there was no other show in Maine to help feed his interest. The show has been held at the armory every year except for one year when the building was under renovation and show moved across Western Avenue to the Buker Community Center.

“Most of the dealers have been with me for 26 years,” LePage said. “They’re still putting up with me.”

Nancy Marshall, of Madison, has sold her hand-crafted jewelry at the show for the past eight years. What started as a craft project has turned into a full-blown obsession.

“When I’m working with jewelry, it’s almost meditative,” she said. “You forget about the extraneous and just focus.”

Marshall said the show is a reunion of sorts, reuniting the other vendors who are selling the rocks and those who come to look at and buy them.

“Most people who come in love stones,” Marshall said. “There’s something about that camaraderie. It’s hard to put a finger on it. They see a stone and they get it. It clicks.”

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @CraigCrosby4

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