Chris Robak has been enamoured by gems, minerals and fossils since he was a young kid.
“I remember my father taking me rock hunting down in Drumheller and we found a dinosaur tooth. I think that’s what first sparked my interest,” said Robak, co-owner of Silver Cove, Western Canada’s largest gem and mineral company.
Silver Cove is hosting its Rocktober Rock N’ Gem Show this week at Westerner Park in Red Deer – the event began Wednesday and continues until Sunday.
“There’s always something new (to see at the show) that some miners have found either outside of a tailings pile they’ve managed to salvage from an old mine or something they’ve managed to dig out of a river,” he said.
Education is a major part of the show, said Robak.
“We have one school group after another come through here during the week. The education aspect of it is important. A lot of people here in Alberta don’t realize just how diverse the mineral industry is. There is so much to it,” he said.
While chatting with a group of young students attending the show, Robak brought up the video game Minecraft, where the player mines gems and minerals and uses them to build. Movies and video games have always generated interest in gems, he said.
“If you look at movies and cinema, going back to the 1980s, there’s always been a rock there. It doesn’t matter what sci-fi movie you pull up, there’s always something there.
“I always find the kids connect with that. They see a rock in a movie or a video game and they go, ‘Wow this one has special powers.’ Whether it’s an infinity gauntlet or whatever, there’s always a gem there.”
It’s great to see children interested in the industry, he added.
“They’ll go home, tell their mom about it, put it on their bookshelf and remember the time they came to the rock show.”
The gem show gets “bigger and bigger” each year, said Robak.
“We have some guests that turn it into a family tradition to come out to the rock show.
“One thing that was surreal for me last year … was when we had a woman come in and she was pushing a stroller. She says to me, ‘I remember you doing rock tours when I was little.’ That just totally dated me,” he said with a laugh.
The first show started was held in Robak’s basement in Eckville. It then moved to Lacombe and eventually moved again to Red Deer’s Westerner Park about six years ago.
The event begins at 10 a.m. each day. It ends at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 5 p.m. Sunday.