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FGMS booth takes advantage of county fair theme

Joe Naiman

Village News Reporter

The theme of the 2023 San Diego County Fair was "Get Out There," which emphasized the outdoors. That is also a major component of the Fallbrook Gem and Mineral Society, so the FGMS booth took advantage of this year's fair theme.

"That's the whole reason this group of like-minded individuals got together," said Elizabeth Cheathem, who created the booth display.

The Fallbrook Gem and Mineral Society is a 501(c)(3) non-profit educational organization which was chartered in 1957. The FGMS mission statement is to promote the study and appreciation of mineralogy, paleontology and related earth sciences and the arts.

"First and foremost people are looking for adventure," Cheatem said. "I wanted to look at how I could illustrate that."

Cheathem and her husband, Charles, moved from Carson to Fallbrook in 1998. She first attended a Fallbrook Gem and Mineral Society meeting in 2003. "I didn't want to leave," she said. "I knew I found like-minded people."

She joined the Fallbrook Gem and Mineral Society and also began volunteering. Cheathem's first event as a volunteer was the Fall Festival of Gems in October 2003. "This whole town is full of nonprofits and volunteers," she said.

The 2023 county fair booth display utilized photographs of various FGMS activities. "I looked through literally hundreds of FGMS activity photos," Cheatham said.

Cheatham wanted to emphasize the aspects of fun, adventure, education and fellowship. "I had holes in my collage," she said.

She asked other FGMS members for additional photographs. "Members just inundated me. They just really helped out," Cheathem said.

(The photos, both from volunteers who provided them and from the FGMS archives, were scanned. The original photos were returned. The display with the replicated photos is now at the FGMS building on Alvarado Street.)

Cheathem put together the display over a period of approximately two months. "It was a lot of research. It took more time to do the research," she said.

"It just was a labor of love," Cheathem said. "The reward was receiving feedback."

Cheatham had to limit the number of photos used in the actual display. "It was a process of give and take," she said. "I had a tough time doing it."

Approximately 90 photos were in the final version of the display. The FGMS members in the photographs included not only current members but those who have passed away or relocated.

Six of the collages were in the main display. One of those stressed the volunteer aspect of fellowship while a seventh collage featuring the social aspect of fellowship was on the left side of the main display. The volunteer activities included setup and teardown of the county fair booth, fair inventory work, FGMS museum and gift shop docent service, assembling the gazebo on the FGMS property, and the "Beading Brigade" jewelry making guidance. The social activities included the anniversary dinner, the "share and sell" event, and the annual potluck, volunteer appreciation dinner and holiday boutique.

The most common question county fair visitors asked of FGMS booth volunteers was whether the organization has field trips. Two separate collages addressed field trips which are adventure activities for FGMS members. One of those was dedicated to the Pala Mining District which includes the Stewart Mine, the Pala Chief Mine and the Oceanview mine. The other featured field trips to Julian, Ocotillo, the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, the Cady Mountains in San Bernardino County, Searles Lake in Trona, the Bluebird Mine in Ogilby and the Red Cloud Mine in Arizona. Since Fallbrook is not within the Pala Mining District, the photo of the cart planter in front of the FGMS museum which allows schoolchildren on field trips to experience digs was also part of the overall field trips display.

The panel on fun featured the county fair booth, the Fall Festival of Gems which is held on the second Sunday of October and the spring Rough 'n Cut event which allows participants to shape rough gemstones.

Actual lapidary classes take place at the FGMS facility, and that was part of the education collage along with monthly speakers, school and children's group classes, the FGMS museum, the library and video gallery, FGMS county fair and community events activity, and collaboration with other organizations.

The other panel had the headline "Join Us" and featured a photo of the FGMS grounds, the FGMS logo and contact information.

The FGMS has a County Fair Committee which this year consisted of Lea Barton, Meline Giannini, Patti Smith and Carol Wittrock-Gold. Cheathem's display received concurrence from the committee and subsequently positive feedback from the volunteers at the fair.

This year's San Diego County Fair opened June 7, so the entire booth had to be ready by then. The display which was at the back of the booth was erected May 23, which allowed for subsequent setup of tables, shelving, lighting and electrical components. Once the rest of the setup was complete the inventory was added to the fair booth.

Approximately 70 FGMS members volunteered at the fair including setup, takedown, and inventory as well as staffing the booths. Cheathem was at the booth twice to interact with the public. "I just look at it as an opportunity to get others to participate," she said.

The coronavirus outbreak canceled the 2020 county fair. The 2021 county fair had no competitive exhibits and thus no Gem, Mineral and Jewelry exhibit booths. Amenities at the 2022 fair did not return to the 2019 level, but the competitive exhibits including the Gem, Mineral, and Jewelry exhibit were held, and Cheathem designed last year's FGMS booth display.

During her fair days at the booth, Cheathem noted that visitors appreciated the return of Gem, Mineral and Jewelry exhibit activities. "They really were excited to be back, and our booth did very, very well," she said.

The county fair is normally the largest fundraising activity for the Fallbrook Gem and Mineral Society, which sells grab bags as well as other items. The funds raised by the county fair booth help offset the FGMS annual operating costs and also allow for a museum with no admission charge. The gazebo and other improvements on the lot will also be funded from the county fair activity. "The proceeds from this year's fair are going to go a long way to help with some of those efforts," Cheathem said.

 

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