Quartzsite: A Gem in the Desert

So exactly what is Quartzsite?

The World’s Largest Flea Market!

RVers may initially journey to Quartzsite for the RV show, but their reasons for returning year after year are as diverse as the goods sold by the many vendors. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A dusty destination in the middle of nowhere—but, come January, the little town of Quartzsite transforms into the vendor capital of the world and becomes the largest gathering of RVs and RVers on the planet.

This sleepy Arizona town has become famous for luring snowbirds who like to browse amid RVs and RV products, gems and minerals, crafts and hobby items—and the “mother of all swap meets.”

The Chamber of Commerce gives the normal population as around 3,000. In January and February, it swells to a million plus.

As you approach Quartzsite, Arizona, from any point on the compass, you begin seeing them approximately 20 miles away from town: clumps, groups, and temporary communities of motorhomes and fifth wheels and other types of recreational vehicles circled around common campfire rings like wagon trains of yore. Solo units also are scattered among the sagebrush.

They’re gathering again. They’ve been rolling in since November by the thousands. Most of them camp in the desert that surrounds a town that’s essentially a truck stop on Interstate 10. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In early morning and late afternoon you will see tall, straight fingers of campfire smoke pointing upward from these campsites.

More than a million visitors congregate to browse through swap meets, gem shows, art and crafts shows as well as scores of other booths offering antiques, souvenirs, and “stuff” of all kinds.

The Quartzsite phenomenon began small. Founded in 1856 as a fort by settler Charles Tyson, the town earned its geological-sounding name during a short-lived mining boom in 1897. Quartzsite remained a sleepy Sonora Desert community until the Quartzsite Improvement Association (QIA) created the Pow Wow Gem and Mineral Show in 1967, drawing scores of rock hounds to sell their finds to collectors of decorative and unusual stones. In rapid fashion, succeeding years brought more events to town.

Kenny King started selling RV awnings at the Quartzsite Pow Wow in 1974. Then in January 1984, he threw up a circus tent and opened the first Quartzsite RV Show.

The Quartzsite Sports, Vacation and RV Show has since evolved into the primary draw for RVers. In 1997 the event moved into its present 20-acre facility a half mile south of the center of town along Highway 95.

The show’s centerpiece is the Big Tent, which encompasses more than 55,000 square feet with over 300 vendors inside and on the surrounding midway.

Dates for the 29th Annual Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show are January 21-29, 2012, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission and car parking are free.

Besides a warm welcome, Quartzsite also offers wonderful activities to fill your time when you need a break from shopping: golf, hiking, fishing, four-wheeler excursions, jam sessions, dancing, bingo, a visit to Celia’s Rainbow Garden, and the Hi Jolly Monument.

Hadji “Hi Jolley” Ali was a man of Greek origin that was recruited by the U.S. Government to herd camels across the desert prior to the Civil War. The U.S. solders quickly added the nickname Hi Jolly. The Civil War ended the camel program and the animals were turned loose on the desert.

You won’t want to miss the 2012 Quartzsite Shows!

A camel driver named Hahji Ali came to Arizona in the mid-1850s with a large number of camels, which had been ordered by the U.S. Army as an experiment. He was called “Hi Jolly” by the locals. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2012 Quartzsite Show Dates

January 1-February 28, 2012: Desert Gardens -Gem & Mineral
January 6-January 15, 2012: Tyson Wells Rock & Gem Show
January 7-January 22, 2012: Main Event
January 20-January 29, 2012: Tyson Wells Sell-A-Rama
January 21-January 29, 2012: Sports, Vacation & RV Show
February 1-February 5, 2012: Hobby Craft & Gem Show
February 3-February 12, 2012: Tyson Wells Arts & Craft Fair
February 4-February 5, 2012: Rock & Roll Car Show
March 3, 2012: Chili Cook-Off & State Salsa Championship

To read other stories about Quartzsite, click here.

Worth Pondering…

Quartzsite = $400,000 diesel pusher motorhomes towing $40,000 SUVs looking for free camping.

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