GPAA: Gold & Outdoor Festival Set for Sonora Aug. 23-24

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Gold Prospectors Association of America: The Delta Gold Diggers, a local chapter of the Gold Prospectors Association of America, will hold its Gold & Outdoor Festival Aug. 23-24 in Sonora, Calif. Learn how and where to find gold at this special event which is open to the public.

GPAA Gold & Treasure Show attendees learn to pan for real gold!

GPAA Gold & Treasure Show attendees learn to pan for real gold!

All three events will include the ever-popular two-week Alaska Gold Expedition trip prize giveaways to Cripple River Mining Camp near Nome, Alaska. Trip prizes will be awarded each day of each show.

The Delta Gold Diggers, a local chapter of the Gold Prospectors Association of America, will hold its Gold & Outdoor Festival Saturday, Aug. 23 to Sunday, Aug. 24 in Sonora, Calif., located in the heart of California’s famed Mother Lode country, at the Mother Lode Fairgrounds, 220 Southgate Dr., Sonora, CA 95370.

The GPAA invites the public to attend the show for a chance to learn how to prospect and mine for their own gold and win major prizes. Participants will get a chance to pan for real gold at the shows, attend lectures on gold prospecting and check out the latest and greatest selection of small-scale mining equipment from vendors. Admission is $5 and children 12 and under are admitted free. The first 100 paid attendees will receive a free vial with gold. Show hours are Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Proceeds from the major prize raffle will go to Public Lands for the People, a non-profit land rights group that promotes keeping public lands open to the public for mining and other outdoor activities, such as fishing, hunting, hiking, biking and camping.

The Sonora, event will kick off the GPAA’s late summer and fall Gold & Treasure Show circuit, which will include two other shows in Abilene, Texas in September and Oklahoma City in October.

All three events will include the ever-popular two-week Alaska Gold Expedition trip prize giveaways to Cripple River Mining Camp near Nome, Alaska. Trip prizes will be awarded each day of each show.

The Sonora Gold & Outdoor Festival will feature two special metal detecting hunts — Treasure Questing and Claim Jumper — sponsored by Minelab will offer participants the chance to try out Minelab metal detectors and find more than $3,000 worth of buried treasure.

GPAA Executive Director of Operations Dominic Ricci explained how the two events differ. The Treasure Questing hunts are non-competitive and are designed to teach newcomers how to metal detect, whereas the Claim Jumper event is a competition.

“We’re ecstatic to have Minelab sponsor the Claim Jumper hunt as well as the Treasure Questing event,” Ricci said. “The Claim Jumper hunts are a series of competitive hunts open to everyone. You can bring your own metal detector, or purchase one from Infinite Detector Solutions, an authorized Minelab dealer on site.”

But, for novice metal detectorists who want a hands-on lesson, the Treasure Questing hunt is an ideal place to learn.

“If you want get started at metal detecting and see what it’s all about, then you’ll want to participate in the Treasure Questing hunts,” he said. “Don’t worry if you don’t have a detector. Minelab will supply some demo units for you to use. You’ll receive some basic hands-on training on how the detector works, including settings, sounds and technology. Then, you’ll set foot to find coins and clad. There will be plenty of prizes and yes, you can participate more than once.”

Ricci said the GPAA Gold and Treasure Shows were started decades ago by GPAA founder George “Buzzard” Massie to introduce people to prospecting and show them how and where to find their own gold.

“We encourage everyone to bring their family and friends because there is no better place to learn how to find your own gold. There is plenty of fun and activities for all ages ... from gold panning to small-scale mining equipment demonstrations to gold prospecting seminars,” Ricci said.

Gold prospecting remains a popular American pastime, especially with the price of gold hovering steady around $1,300 an ounce.

The GPAA is committed to preserving the heritage of the North American prospector, teaching people how and where they can find gold and showing them the tools and equipment needed to find it. Gold prospecting is really another great excuse to get off the couch and head out into nature to enjoy time spent with family and friends, he said.

“It’s the draw of the fresh air, camping and getting outdoors. It’s good physical exercise and keeps you fit. If you find gold in your pan, it’s a bonus!” Ricci said. “You can buy gold, for a staggering $1,300 an ounce, or you can scoop it up from the streams and ground near your home at the cost of a sore back, wet feet and maybe a few bug bites. That’s the promise of what we call gold fever, a pastime that has caught the imagination of young families and retirees from all across the United States and the world. Today, gold prospecting remains a challenge and is as much about recreation as riches.”

“Prospecting for gold is Mother Nature’s Playstation,” said Delta Gold Diggers GPAA Chapter President Robert Guardiola. “We’ve got metal detecting contests, highbankers, sluices, pans and pretty much any small-scale mining equipment you can think of is going to be there. You just won’t believe the setting for this right in downtown Sonora in the heart of the Mother Lode! It will be a fantastic weekend. Everybody is excited. Why not come out and enjoy the weekend and the family atmosphere?”

Another special feature planned for the festival is a Builder’s Contest, Guardiola said.

“How many times have you been out gold prospecting and seen the guy next to you with some type of ingenious homemade gold-catching contraption — something you’ve never seen at a gold show or a store, but something a prospector has put together for himself to catch more gold? So, we want you to bring that contraption that you’ve made and put it on display for everybody. We want to see it! It can be simple as a crevice-cracking device, to a homemade sluice or highbanker or kneepads. It’s really open to the imagination — whatever you come up with to make your gold prospecting trips more productive, more profitable or more exciting,” Guardiola said.

The Builder’s Contest is easy to enter by going to and filling out a simple application, Guardiola said. The inventions contraptions will be judged by the public at the show and the winners will win some gold. There will be three different gold prizes!

For more information about the Gold & Outdoor Festival, RV parking, hookups and tent camping, call (209) 606-0085.

Bigger, better shows planned for 2015

The GPAA has also announced a tentative lineup of nine official GPAA Gold & Treasure Shows for 2015:

  • Pomona, Calif. (tentative)
  • Mesa, Ariz., Feb. 28-March 1
  • Stockton, Calif., March 7-8
  • Portland, Ore., March 28-29
  • Boise, Idaho, April 11-12
  • Las Vegas, Nev., April 25-26
  • Denver, Colo., May 16-17
  • Charlotte, N.C., May 30-31
  • Knoxville, Tenn., June 6-7

GPAA Trade Show Manager Gene Glenn said next year’s shows will be held in larger venues in major urban centers to make them more accessible to more people.

“We’re going to draw more people. It’s going to be a better experience for attendees and for vendors as well. My hope for the 2015 shows is to appeal to — not only to encourage more families to spend time in nature together, but to tie in gold prospecting with other outdoors activities, such as fishing, camping, hiking and off-roading. Why not bring a gold pan with you on your travels? Prospecting is fun and can be very lucrative if you know what you’re doing,” Glenn said.

The Gold & Treasure Shows are a one-stop shop for everything you need to go find your own gold.

“They are family events so the kids are going to want to come and get involved,” Glenn said. “Bring the kids and let them pan for real gold and try metal detecting. There’s really something for everybody no matter what your skill level — including newbies who don’t know the first thing about gold or small-scale mining.”

The focus on larger urban centers is designed to introduce more newcomers to the world of prospecting.

“Prospecting, to this point, has been something that’s almost exclusively generational. It’s a pastime that’s handed down — an experience that kids have had with their parents, like Tom Massie had with his dad George Massie, and then handed down to his kids. George really built the GPAA from something that was a hobby — a couple of kids their dad and a gold pan and techniques that you can learn at these shows.”

With the modern technology such as metal detectors, GPS and new, light-weight equipment, mining gold has never been easier.

“Most people have no idea or don’t think it’s something that’s even possible,” Glenn said. “They don’t know how to find gold or where gold comes from, and that’s what the GPAA has to offer them.”

Pre-registration is key
Everyone who plans to attend these shows is asked to please log in to your GPAA profile at and pre-register for the shows. If you have not yet created a profile, it’s easy. Click the “Help” button for guidance.

For more information, email DeltaGoldDiggers(at)gmail(dot)com, call (209) 606-0085 or go to Delta Gold Diggers

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Brad Jones

Dominic Ricci
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