Fossil Point is one of several destinations that Green River Rock & Mineral Festival attendees can visit. [Photo courtesy of Maria Sykes]

When Moab residents hear the words “Rock and Mineral Festival,” they probably think of the annual Rock, Gem and Mineral Show held in the fall at the Old Spanish Trail Arena.

But this year, a new event in Green River is bringing light to the world of rocks and minerals. It’s not a show – it’s a weekend’s worth of lectures, field trips, workshops, vendors and even a happy hour and karaoke night.

The free event, which the National Endowment for the Arts, the Emery County Travel Board and others are sponsoring, is organized by Epicenter, a nonprofit organization that serves the town of Green River. The group aims to create “positive change locally by providing resources to residents through active involvement in (the Green River) community.”

Epicenter co-founder Maria Sykes said the inspiration for the event came from artists Lisa Ward and Alison Jean Cole.

“They proposed the idea to celebrate the area’s geologic history and culture, and the town loved it,” she said.

Unlike your typical gem or mineral show, she said, this is a festival that focuses on educational programming and getting people out into the landscape.

Cole, a rockhound and lapidary artist from Portland, Oregon, joined others in presenting the event to Epicenter. Cole said the festival is a labor of love.

“We have pulled together a group of field trip leaders who are passionate about the area and experts in their field,” she said. “This is a unique chance to spend a weekend outside and learn a great deal from some really cool people. There is a tremendous amount to do around Green River and we have curated a special list of where to go and what to see while folks are in town … Attendees can see all this info online or by visiting the festival information booth at the John Wesley Powell museum throughout the weekend.”

The festival is based out of the John Wesley Powell River History Museum at 1765 E. Main St. in Green River. Several field trips will caravan from the museum at set times to Fossil Point, Copper Ridge and Sego Canyon. Savage Territory Gallery at 30 S. Broadway St. will host a happy hour from 5 to 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 1, featuring photographer Gary Orona. Karaoke will be held at West Winds Restaurant at 1065 E. Main St. at 7 p.m. that evening.

“Green River has a cyclical history of boom and bust economics,” Cole said. “However, one thing will never change about Green River – its location amongst some of the most stunning landscapes in the West … The town lies adjacent to Jurassic fossil beds, uranium deposits, mineral collecting areas and treasures from cultures long gone. The town is envisioning a new future for itself, and appreciation of natural assets is at the forefront of that evolution.”

In addition to workshops, demonstrations will include dry-stack stone wall building, as well as the art of gemstone faceting with artist Kirsten Southwell.

Stonewell served as an artist-in-residence with Epicenter in Green River throughout 2016. Her artwork has been exhibited in Brooklyn, New York; Portland; and Chicago, and will be displayed at the Tamarisk Restaurant in Green River during the festival.

Cole said the field trips are the essence of the festival, and event organizers are looking forward to getting people out in the landscape.

“We hope that people of all ages attend,” she said. “Attendees will have a chance to spend the day exploring with some of the West’s foremost experts in paleontology and archaeology – for free. Kids will get so see how awesome these careers are and adults will have a chance to let loose and enjoy exploring.”

The crew of field trip leaders includes BLM paleontologists Greg McDonald and ReBecca Hunt-Foster, and Steve Acerson, the president of the Utah Rock Art Research Association.

Utah State Geologist Jim Kirkland will kick off the festival on Friday, March 31, at 6:30 p.m. at the John Wesley Powell River History Museum. Kirkland will be lecturing on Green River’s dinosaur fossils.

According to the event website, Kirkland will lecture on the geological record of the area, which over 35 million years has resulted in the preservation of a greater diversity of dinosaur species than any other formation in the world.

Sykes noted that Kirkland co-wrote a “Star Trek” novel.

“He’s basically the coolest,” she said.

New festival features everything from field trips and workshops to karaoke, happy hour

This is a unique chance to spend a weekend outside and learn a great deal from some really cool people. There is a tremendous amount to do around Green River and we have curated a special list of where to go and what to see while folks are in town.

What: Green River Rock & Mineral Festival

When: Friday, March 31, through Sunday, April 2

Where: John Wesley Powell River History Museum, 1765 E. Main St., Green River; other locations vary

Cost: Free

Information: www.greenriverrocks.com; 435-564-3330; info@ruralandproud.org

For more information about where to stay, what to see and to access field trip information, visit the event website at www.greenriverrocks.com, call 435-564-3330, email info@ruralandproud.org, or visit the booth at the John Wesley Powell River History Museum.