How Kalamazoo and Minnesota Clubs Grew Their Rock & Gem Shows!

By Regina Kapta, MWF Public Image Chair & Tony Kapta, Past President MWF (Midwest Federation of Mineralogical Societies)    

(Originally written for the MWF newsletter, to illustrate how Facebook can be used to publicize a club's rockshow successfully)                                   8/1/18

In May 2018, Tony and I traveled to Kalamazoo, MI for the MWF Spring meeting which was hosted by the Kalamazoo Geological & Mineral Society at the club’s annual show, the Kalamazoo Rock, Gem, Fossil and Mineral show. We had been to the Kalamazoo show before, and I thought we would see a show similar to what we had seen 4-5 years ago, BUT was I shocked when I realized the show now filled 2 wings of the Kalamazoo County Expo Center.  From a small show of a couple thousand attendees a few years ago, the show now occupies 35,000 sq. feet of the Expo Center.

I tracked down David Haas, who is the President of the club, and he introduced me to Jerry VanKnocker and Wrifton Graham, orchestrators of the show advertising and publicity. We talked about what has changed in their approach to advertising for the show. Jerry talked about aiming for slow growth each year, adding more children’s activities, and more Facebook involvement, growing attendance, but trying NOT to grow more than they could handle based on club volunteers, dealer space and member support in donated items and prizes. This is the first year the club moved into the 2nd wing at the Expo center.

Five years ago Kalamazoo had about 3000 attending the show. By the end of Saturday in May 2018 they were at 4500, and by Sunday afternoon hit over 7100, for a final attendance of 7500. This is an increase of 31% over the attendance for 2017.


Jerry handled the email blasts and Wrifton handled the FaceBook promotions – there were no newspaper, radio or TV ads at all.  Over the past 3-4 years, as attendance grew, they eliminated the traditional channels of advertising since the responses on email and Facebook were so much better.

Jerry sent the email blasts out at 6 weeks and again at 2 weeks out from the show, at about 3000 emails each. The emails featured highlights of the show and linked to the club website for more information. .


Wrifton talked about how to use Facebook’s strengths to expand the reach of a basic Facebook ad. The main focus using Facebook Ads is to get the ads to go ‘viral’. This means once a certain threshold of ‘Interested’ clicks is reached, Facebook algorithms take over, and the ads and posts are increasingly fed into more and more newsfeeds as the ‘authority voice’ is recognized and weighed over other ads, growing the visibility exponentially.

Using FaceBook as the primary advertising platform, there were several approaches that proved to impact attendance:

  • The pre-event Facebook Ad was created and included a photo of amethyst cathedrals, the show name, date, location and web address. Under the ad was one paragraph describing show details. The demographic target of the ad was Women Ages 23-38, living in urban areas within 2 hours driving distance from the event. Money spent for the primary ad and boosted posts about the show, was about $750.
  • The club offered a pre-show give away contest on Facebook at 6 weeks out from the show. The winner could pick up the prize at the show. This helped increase the FB sharing immensely.
  • There were posts about the show to various FB interest groups – Rockhound and collector groups, Lapidary groups, Faceting groups, and Lake Superior Agate interest groups. Plus, members that posted stuck around on the sites to field questions and promote details about the show.
  • The club members also did daily posts on the club website or commenting on the ad, posing questions about specific minerals or gemstones, talking about their favorite parts of the show, doing a favorite dealer highlight, or most interesting kids activity. Talking up the special displays being featured, and what the speakers were presenting sparked even more questions and comments about the show. This also included reviews and testimony-type commenting about the show – that it’s worth the drive and pointing out the education value in the kid’s activities. Members played an active role in commenting, and those responses and sharing helped make the postings go viral. The Facebook ad received over 12,000 clicks showing “Interested”, and half of the people interested showed up at the show.


They still did the school flyers, mailed postcards, and left bookmarks.  The club is able to feature Friday as Kids Day, with flyers sent to the schools, and providing a subsidy for the schools to cover the bus transportation for students. Other promotions were book marks featuring next year’s show to hand out at other shows during the year. The club starts this right after the current show for next year’s show.


The club also included demonstration booths for the City’s environment and ecology dept featuring info on clean water, for Paleo Joe – featuring fossils and how they are formed, and booths about the Children’s museum and the Seaman Museum. Membership booths were setup for 4H Clubs, Boy and Girl Scouts, info on the local college, the local astronomy club, a Master Gardener booth, and Earthscapes – featuring a local landscaper showing how rocks can be integrated into a landscaped yard.

One specific item really stood out that Kalamazoo show. To get more club volunteers during the show, they offered a free year membership in the club, plus a red club t-shirt for volunteers who worked at least 6 hours at the show. This created a highly visible sea of red t-shirts everywhere you looked. This really lent an “authority voice” to the club and a testimony to its active membership and its leadership.


The Minnesota Mineral Club had a similar experience using FaceBook last year. Sandy Fuller is a member of this club, as well as the President of the American Federation of Mineralogical Societies. She commented on what happened at their show last year in the AFMS Newsletter:

 “In preparation for one recent show, several members shared their event on popular FB groups, and stayed involved to share information and provide information. As a result, over 16,000 FB users indicated their interest in the event, and show attendance more than double in size, and club members scrambled to make adjustments to handle the increased crowd. What a good problem to have!”

(Sandy Fuller, AFMS President, AFMS Newsletter, Feb 2018 Vol 71 #3.)


So, like opening Pandora’s box, the success of this type of promotion will impact the entire club’s involvement and require more volunteers, strong leadership, more donations and activities, in addition to the usual challenge of coordinating the show vendors, demonstrators and displays. Aim for slow growth, implementing a few of these ideas at time so the club can build up a strong support base. Without an active club, this promotion would not work well, taxing an already over-worked membership.

The next Kalamazoo show is in May. Plan to attend this one!

The Minnesota Mineral Club show details at  .



About The Author

Regina Kapta is one of those multi-potentialities– lots of varied interests, but working hard to focus on one thing at a time!

Learning about geology, rock hounding and mineral collecting has naturally led to developing a online rock shop, using the foundation of years of graphic design and photography, and adding skills in e-commerce, SEO, and blogging. She has crossed a lot of boundaries, from editor of the local rock club newsletter, writing articles about minerals, setting up a rock and gem show for several years, and branching to the world of ecom.

“It’s all a work in progress, but learning keeps you young, and challenges can expand what you believe is possible! “

Rock the world - in your own way!

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