MARION -- Those who study and collect rock and mineral specimens are known as rockhounds.
It's a great hobby as any participant will tell you and one that requires no expensive tools or equipment to get started.
All you need to do is simply take a stroll around your yard, street or local park, pick up a rock or mineral that catches your eye, and bingo -- you're a rockhound.
Of course, like any hobby or sport, there is much more to experience than that and if you wanted to find out what the ever growing hobby is really all about, then you should have been at The Pavilion of the City of Marion over the weekend where the Southern Illinois Earth Science Club hosted its 51st Gem, Mineral, Fossil and Jewelry Show.
This year's show chairman, Mike Chontofalsky, of Centralia, said that thanks to the nice weather the show attracted good crowds both days.
"Last year was a great show. We had over 2,300 people attend, and so far, it looks like we might even top that this year."
For many like Maribeth Whitwell of Marion, who has been a member of the Southern Illinois Earth Science Club for 10 years, it's the perfect location for the event,
"I'm thrilled it's here at The Pavilion," she said. "I've been interested in gems and minerals nearly my entire life, starting when I was a little girl. My grandparents lived on a farm and we were always in the woods, in the creeks, and after I found my first fossil, I was hooked!"
What has Chontofalsky really excited is the dramatic increase he's seen in the number of young people coming to the shows in recent years. "Last year, we had over 650 kids come through, which was a record for us. That's a really good sign for the hobby."
Chontofalsky said that there are over 100 family memberships in the club. Individual memberships are not sold, and it only costs $15 a year to join.
"We meet once a month in Benton at the Community Center and are always happy to welcome in new members," he said.