Tucson, the world gem fair 2020
It felt like I was in a movie from the moment I landed, massive cactus trees lined the airport drive in the landscaped dirt and rocks. We were well and truly in the desert. Ludicrously sized American flags waved slow and steady in the afternoon breeze set on top of even larger flag poles, Dodge trucks dwarfed our rental van on the highway back to our home for the next month. Waffle House, Denni's, In and Out Burger, Burger King, Walmart and every other fast food place sat between Mexican eateries and steak houses. I could not wait to try them all.
Tuscon is sprawled out and for good reason, why not when you have all the space in the world, but it did make it pretty hard to get anywhere without a ride of your own. Surrounded by steep mountain ranges, it was bitterly cold in the mornings and afternoons but when the sun came out it was truly magnificent. I have never seen sunsets like the ones Tucson puts on, it's worth a visit just to see that sun setting over the mountains each night.
A quick trip to Walmart to stock up, a couple of cheeky drinks on the porch that evening and the next morning it was on. I'm not sure what you call it in the trade world, but it was bump in time for the massive tent we shared with a few other Aussie traders at Kino. We pulled out everything from storage bit by bit and laid down a full floor to keep our feet that little bit off the ground when the rain (or hail) came pelting down. Back and forth, day after day, loading masses of rough onto the couple of trucks we had. Display cases, tables and lighting, it was labour intensive from that 1st morning until the afternoon I flew out, we just didn't stop I think I had 3 days to get my buying done over the 3 weeks I was there. Before the shows we were setting up, during the shows you couldn't leave the stand for long (or at all) and, at the end of the day, it was a long trip back to the house to eat, sleep and repeat the day before. Don't let anyone tell you that it's easy work, it's constant and it wears you out even if you do have days to yourself.
That was just one of the shows though, after Keno was set up for the soft open, we had another show to set up at Jogs which was indoors. Good for weather, but I didn't get to sneak away to find those pieces of rough gem material I was searching for like you could at Keno. That was probably a good thing, I definitely went over budget and I sure as hell bought more than I needed, but can you really blame me?
It was amazing, the variety of shows to go to, the different traders within each show and the sheer volume of people is overwhelming. You won't get to everything, probably not even a quarter of what you want to see if you want to do it halfway properly, and I really don't think you'll get anywhere near what you want on your first trip. But I had a blast and discovered some treasures that will last me well into the next visit.
Take some good walking shoes, a good coat and probably some thermal layers for those outdoor shows, along with a sturdy backpack that will hold your new found treasures as you trek around each show. The free bus system they had between shows is excellent and the people that live in Tucson are so friendly and happy to help in any way they can, tip often and generously if you can, they truly appreciate it and don't ask for it.
Definitely put it on your bucket list, it's such an incredible experience and you will meet great people and develop relationships that will last a lifetime. What I loved most about the trip was that I felt like I'd found my people. Everybody loved talking about gemstones, or cutting gems or equipment. It was an amazing creative space for me just walking around and standing next to stupidly sized Amethyst crystals to discovering the perfect pair of Watermelon Tourmaline slices (could not get enough of those). It stirred up so many creative ideas I couldn't wait to get back and stuck into them.