An opportunity to pan for gold and use a metal detector or search for coins scattered in grass drew about 600 people during the weekend to the Thurston County Fairgrounds.
That’s where the gold, gem and treasure show was, an event hosted by the Bedrock Prospector Club of Puyallup, president Dennis Petersen said. It was the group’s second year to visit the fairgrounds, with proceeds benefiting Toys for Tots and Resources Coalition, an organization that advocates on behalf of those who want to use public lands for recreation.
“Resources Coalition is committed to the reality that responsible open access works for both wildlife and people,” one of the group’s brochures reads.
The amount raised from the weekend wasn’t immediately known, but last year the show raised about $400 for both groups, Petersen said.
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Petersen began mining in the late 1970s, followed by a 33-year career with Weyerhaeuser before he retired in 2008. He then joined the Bedrock club, which has about 400 members and access to various gold claims, including several in Washington: Blewett Pass, along the Naches River and near Morton, he said.
“The search for gold is fun,” Petersen said, adding that it’s also an excuse to get outdoors.
He has found gold, platinum and a few gem stones. But ask how much gold he has found, and Petersen, perhaps like all gold miners, won’t divulge much.
He finally said about “2 ounces,” but said, “If you buy that, I got a bridge to sell you.”
A gold-panning station, filled with “pay dirt,” was on display for anyone to try.
Bedrock club member Shawn Doyle demonstrated how to pan for gold. He picked up a pan full of dirt and water, then slowly sifted it until a few gold flakes shined brightly. Doyle has been a member of the club for three years and goes gold panning about 20 times a year. He, too, didn’t let on about how much gold he has found, but when you find it, you get “AU fever,” he said, citing the periodic table sign for gold.
“It puts a smile on your face when you get gold,” he said.
An ounce of gold is trading at about $1,250.