Jonathan Flores/Contributing Photographer Students and community members attend the 48th annual Rock and Mineral Show at the Johnson City Senior Center.

I walked into the Rock and Mineral Show with $6, a receipt from the Salvation Army and a $1 scratch-off in my wallet. I left with some amethyst, a small elephant statue and a renewed sense of optimism.

The 48th Rock and Mineral Show (or Gem and Mineral Show, or Mineral and Fossil Show, as the different signs read) was held on Saturday and Sunday at the Johnson City Senior Center. It is hosted yearly by the New York Southern Tier Geology Club, and the house was packed. Without exaggeration, I went on both days and spent five minutes looking for a parking spot each time.

But really — what does one do at a rock show? There are endless different types of minerals, fossils and gems to browse through. Each vendor adds a personal touch to their works — some sell fine jewelry and others sell fossilized shark teeth. There was even a fluorescent rock show, where ultraviolet lights revealed hidden glowing properties of common-looking stones.

The people there can also teach you things you never knew you wanted to know. One vendor taught me about bismuth, which has a melting point low enough that you can melt it down on your stove and mold it into various shapes at home. He also showed me fordite, a fake stone that is made from residual automotive paint from the ’50s and ’60s. Crafty autoworkers salvaged the extra paint that chipped off of the cars and ‘upcycled’ it into jewelry.

Attendees said they came to the show for various reasons. Some were zealous collectors, closely examining each stone for imperfections. Some went to buy jewelry, some tried to teach their children and some casual attendees, like myself, simply wandered the halls and browsed the collections.

As I walked through the senior center, I heard the vendors wheeling and dealing, discussing the going rates of various products.

“I mean, I’ve got more gypsum than I even know what to do with,” said one man in passing.

For me, the show was also a reminder of the omnipresent Binghamton University bubble — the phenomenon of students only interacting with other students and their professors for weeks and weeks at a time. It was refreshing to see young children, older people and college students all interacting as peers, sharing a love for shiny things.

One girl, who looked about 10 years old, was playing with the stone statues of animals as I looked for a miniature tiger statue to buy for my friend. I asked her if she saw any tigers, since the shelf was closer to her height than mine. She put her hand to her chin and pondered for a good minute before handing me a statue that was most certainly an elephant. Of course, I said “thank you” and bought the elephant, leaving my wallet barren as usual.

It reminded me of the craft shows my mom would take me to as a kid. The wave of nostalgia was overwhelming, and made me consider all the small events that the Binghamton area offers that I had missed or skipped over the last four years.

In short, getting out of the comfort zone that is the BU campus and going to random events can make all the difference in your college experience. Unfortunately, this show was a one-weekend-only event, but I would count on seeing them around town again for the 49th year next April.