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After 46 shows and nearly 500 driving miles, Arizona Bead Dog visited 34 public gem and mineral shows and 12 wholesale shows. By Arizona Bead Dog’s count based on newspaper and public reporting, there were 47 possible shows to attend (one, by invitation-only, was not reviewed; one show was visited, but looked like it had never opened). Here are the results for 2008.
2008 Best Public Show: TEP Show. While it’s a close call, Arizona Bead Dog’s 2008 pick for best overall public show is the TEP Show. For 2007, Arizona Bead Dog picked the Simpson Street Show as the best overall public show. Why the change? Arizona Bead Dog applied the following criteria in picking a best overall public show: location, ease of parking, variety of items, and prices. While Arizona Bead Dog still likes the compactness, cleanliness, and variety offered at Simpson Street, the outdoor opportunities at the TEP Show provide more hang time to experience the flavor of Tucson’s gem and mineral shows, and moved it to best overall show. For example, many large landscaping mineral specimens vendors were available at TEP, and that alone provides an idea of the minerals offered at other shows around town. Because it is a larger show, TEP offered more choices. But more choices mean that the show takes more time to walk around; if your time is limited, visit Simpson Street instead. And visit Simpson Street anytime you only have 30 minutes or an hour. Finally, Arizona Bead Dog’s impression is that while TEP wins in the variety of items and to some extent price categories, Simpson Street exhibitors offered—overall— higher-end items at competitive prices.
A close third are the Frontage Road Shows—any of them, but the Pueblo Gem Show at Riverpark Inn is Arizona Bead Dog’s top Frontage Road Show pick for 2008. The Frontage Road Shows generally have better values, but this isn’t a uniform conclusion. Although they offer much more variety collectively than either TEP or Simpson Street, they are less convenient in terms of time (they take more time to visit since they string out over 5 different locations along the Frontage Road) and parking (parking costs about $5 and isn’t as convenient as either Simpson Street or TEP), but it offers the public the full flavor of our gem and mineral shows where you can walk for a half-day in sunny, cool February weather and visit 1000s of exhibitor stalls and hotel rooms.
Finally, Arizona Bead Dog notes that many more people visited the site than offered their vote for a favorite show. Perhaps this was because people felt that they had to see more shows. But Arizona Bead Dog encourages you to simply cast your vote for the shows you enjoyed. In that regard, the results will continue to be tabulated all year, but as of 3/15/08, top picks went to Simpson Street and the African Art Village.
2008 Best Buyer-Only Show: Holidome. I ran into a fellow bead stringer from out-of-state at the Gem Mall this year, and we both agreed that if you’re a bead stringer and only have 1 day in Tucson, visit Gem Mall. So why isn’t Gem Mall Arizona Bead Dog’s top pick? Well, it is for bead stringers. But Arizona Bead Dog is trying to offer a larger picture for all buyers, and not all buyers are bead stringers. And therein lies the difficulty in picking a best overall buyer show. To that end, the Holidome balances beads, findings, finished jewelry, and gifts. You won’t find quite the number of gift items at the other top bead-stringer shows: Quality Inn (for those who voted, this show edged out the others as of 3/15/08), To Bead True Blue, Best Bead Show.
2008 Best Mineral Show: Inn Suites. Arizona Bead Dog realized this year, in visiting every single mineral show, that these shows constitute about 40% of the Tucson shows. Arizona Bead Dog also realized how unique each mineral show is because minerals never come out of the ground exactly the same. This contrasts to the jewelry and bead-stringing shows where one bead strand is very similar if not identical to another. Given any mineral specimen’s unique quality, Arizona Bead Dog’s criteria in picking a best overall mineral show were location, parking, variety of minerals, and availability of other items. Overall, the Inn Suites is the best pick if you can only go to one mineral show. The hotel courtyard’s grass and trees create an enjoyable, park-like experience as you walk from hotel room to hotel room. Parking is ample. Mineral varieties abound, often in one room, but also due to the sheer number of vendors in rooms around the interior courtyard, exterior, and second-story. If you’re looking for a particular mineral, you’re likely to find it here. Finally, the show offered large and small mineral specimens, bulk minerals, books, dinosaur fossils, finished jewelry, bookends, other stone-ware items, and other miscellaneous items.
The Mineral and Fossil Co-op is also worth visiting: its showroom is lovely and home to about a dozen exhibitors, all wholesale. Likewise, an enjoyable mineral specimen viewing experience can be had at Tucson’s Westward Look Mineral Show. And those who voted like the Westward Look show.
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