Rockhound Gemboree

Table of Contents

The annual Rockhound Gemboree takes places annually over the August long weekend in Bancroft. Unfortunately for 2020 it has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the meantime, you can dream on for next year’s event by reading about a visit one of our Local Wanderers wrote after visiting the Gemboree in the past.

“Be prepared to have your mind boggled,” a woman in line informs me. She’s driven five hours to get here and she’s been coming to this event as often as she can for the past three decades. “You’re going to be amazed,” she assures me as we show our wristbands and part ways. “Rocks are so much fun.” At just ten o’clock on a Thursday morning in August, hundreds of people are filing into the North Hastings Community Centre and Bancroft Curling Club. 

Bancroft is hailed as the “Mineral Capital of Canada”. It’s a picturesque, small town nestled between towering hills and trees, a place with a rich history of mining, and  a place where “all that glitters is not gold.” Because gems and minerals – beryl, amazonite, quartz, garnet, jade, silver, to name just a few – while not gold, definitely glitter. The Bancroft Gemboree is a 54 year old tradition held every Civic holiday long weekend. It’s organized by the local Bancroft and district Chamber of Commerce, and a host of volunteers. These people are incredibly proud of this event. “It’s 54 years of awesome” one of the organizers tells me. Outside, there’s music, food vendor trucks, picnic tables, and the Chamber of Commerce have set up their mobile van outside the arena before the Opening Ceremonies begin. Many local politicians and dignitaries speak and then cut the red ribbon to mark that it’s officially Gemboree time.

cutting of ribbon by Rodney Cooney, Paul Jenkins, Mike Bossio, Marlene Musclow and Greg Webb, Mayor Vivian Bloom, Reeve Graham Blair, Todd Smith, Mike Douglas-Hecker

L to R: Rodney Cooney (Hastings County Warden), Paul Jenkins (Acting Mayor of the town of Bancroft), Mike Bossio (M.P. for Hastings, Lennox & Addington), Marlene Musclow and Greg Webb (General Manager Bancroft District Chamber of Commerce), Mayor Vivian Bloom (Hastings Highlands), Reeve Graham Blair (Wollaston Township), Todd Smith (M.P.P. for Prince-Edward Hastings Riding), Mike Douglas-Hecker (Councillor for Limerick Township).

Inside – the local arena and curling club are filled with endless tables and displays of rocks, crystals, gems, fossils, things made of rocks – and jewelry – all of which sparkles beneath the overhead lights. Entering the arena is like entering a glorious, new world. 

local arena and curling club are filled with endless tables and displays of rocks, crystals, gems, fossils, things made of rocks - and jewelry

The energy of the place feels magnetic: the energy of rocks is somehow an intangible music  that hums throughout the building. There’s a vitality here that’s hard to describe. A vibe. Everyone is having fun because rocks really are amazing.

The arena is packed with people who are entranced. Mesmerized. I watch two children  look with awe at rocks. I watch a teenaged boy hold rocks against light, testing the way light alters them. I watch women and men of all ages oggle at rings, and bracelets, earrings, and necklaces. I watch an elderly man sort through buckets of stones. I watch as vendors explain the unique nature of their wares. 

two children  look with awe at rocks

Thousands of people visit – many are locals and cottagers who embrace the event, and for whom it’s an annual tradition. For others, it’s a destination event: many have travelled across the province and across the country to wander the venues for a day or for the weekend. Young and old. Tourists and locals. Soon to be rockhounds or rock lovers. Because there is something about rocks – their elemental nature, their ruggedness, their beauty, their infinite range of texture  and type and colour and design that pulls us in.

trailer loaded with huge rocks

There are more than one hundred vendors. Before the doors open, they have been busy setting up displays that boggle the eye in their variety and richness – rocks of all colours, kinds, shapes  – from the local area, and from all over the planet. 

rocks of all colours, kinds, shapes

The Gemboree began in 1963 with some rock enthusiasts, a tent, and a field. Local ‘Bancroftonians’ took their kids to see the rocks, and now those people are bringing their kids. Fueled over the years by the enthusiasm of the local community and the support the Chamber of Commerce, the Rockhound Gemboree is now “recognized as a top 100 Festival & Event in Ontario”. This is such an amazing accomplishment for a community. The Gemboree has grown because the community has fostered it.

 And still fosters it.

And there is much more outside the venues. While you can pan for gold on-site, there are daily “Mineral Collecting Field Trips” to several local mines where you can search for beryl, fluor-Apatite, zircon, and rose quartz. As well, there are daily  presentations by professional geologists and mining experts.  

panning for gold over a pool

However, the Rockhound Gemboree is not just for geologists, petrologists or rock enthusiasts; there are children, millennials, boomers, people with strollers and people with canes – and every one of them is mesmerized by the endless displays of things rock and mineral.

There is so much variety and so much history. “Rocks and minerals [are] the oldest storytellers.” Perhaps this explains their appeal. There is something elemental and magnetic about the way everyone in the place is lured into the magic of the metamorphic, sedimentary, or igneous. 

dozens of rocks of varying colour and type

 And most visitors are shelling out, too. Few people leave without a plastic bag in hand containing a rock specimen, jewellry, crafts, or crystals. 

purple and orange crystals

Which is good news for the more than 100 vendors who travelled from across the country and from the US to be at “the best show ever. The one to look forward to.” “I love coming to this show,” one vendor from across the border stated, “because Bancroft is so beautiful.”

 It’s all good news for the local community. The main street in Bancroft is crawl-speed busy for the four days of the event. People come because of the geology and they boost the local economy. Everyone prospers: hotels, motels, restaurants, stores, campgrounds, tourist attractions such as the Princess Sodalite Mine Rock Shop, the Farmers’ Market, to name a few. Bancroft literally booms for four days – and the whole region benefits.

It’s akin to a four day gold rush. 

sky view of all the vendors and customers browsing

So, rock on Bancroft and all the people who have made this amazing event happen every Civic long weekend for the past 54 years.

Mind-boggling, indeed.

Our Local Wanderer Initiative was funded and supported in part by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture & Sport and Regional Tourism Organization 11 – Ontario’s Highlands.


Explore More!


Thanks for signing up to our newsletter. You will start receive exciting updates on what is happening here in Hastings County including, events, resources, stories and more.

Quinn's of Tweed

345 Victoria St. North Tweed, Ontario K0K 3J0

Visitors often ask about the building and it’s name, Quinn’s of Tweed. In fact, tradition dictates that we keep, with honour,  the name Quinn’s of Tweed, the original name of the store and building. The Quinn’s of Tweed building is one of the town’s oldest and most beautiful historic stone structures, dating back to the 1880s. The twelve foot walls allow us to hang paintings in the traditional French salon style. You’ll marvel at the craftmanship of the ash and maple staircase, the old bookeeper’s office, and the stained glass that brings one back to an era when a handshake and promise were as good as gold – today, we still believe in those principles.

gaylord hardwood flooring

228 Victoria St N, Tweed, ON K0K 3J0

Charles Frederick McGowan sold the lot in 1907 to William James Lawrence for $600.00. Shortly thereafter Mr. Lawrence erected the building which still stands there today. He conducted a furniture business until 1912, when he sold the property to the Traders’ Bank of Canada, which within the year, was taken over by the Royal Bank of Canada. It operated out of the building until 1942, when the war forced consolidations and closures due to a lack of tellers (men). The property changed hands a couple more times before local Tweed family, Gaylord Forest Products secured the property in 2003. Since then, they have evolved every inch of the interior into an experience. Each room throughout the building is a real life ‘showroom’ from top to bottom; you simply have to see it to believe it. The stairwell in particular holds a lot of history!

Marmora and Lake Inn

Come as strangers. Leave as friends.

29 Bursthall St, Marmora, ON K0K 2M0

Experience the charm of our 1906 mansion, nestled in the village of Marmora, Ontario, an historic town celebrating 200 years in 2021. The large and stately home was built by Ed Shannon for lumber baron Henry Reginald Pearce (known as “Reginald”) and his family, who purchased the lot for $200. It remained a private family dwelling for many decades and eventually was converted to a Bed and Breakfast by Chris and Lilly Boldly.

It now operates as Marmora And Lake Inn B&B and boasts beautiful, spacious bedrooms with quaint old-world craftsmanship for a luxurious stay. Onsite amenities include an exceptional indoor swimming pool, bubbler tub, infrared sauna, large screen SMART TV’s in each room, wireless internet access throughout, and generous sized gathering rooms. And being a small town, the pool is open to the community and friends for a nominal fee (pre-booking is required).

Our guests enjoy a complimentary continental breakfast including locally baked breads and pastries, yogurt and fresh fruit, an extensive beverage and tea/coffee bar featuring a wide variety of flavours and blends. Great outdoor patio area for fair-weather relaxation and large private events.

Whether planning a romantic weekend for two, a small wedding, a family reunion or a week-long visit to bask in the natural beauty of the region, the Marmora And Lake Inn B&B will help make it a time to remember. (Please note that all bedrooms are on the upper levels and we don’t yet have accessibility assist.)