COLORADO SPRINGS — Friday marks the start of the Gold Panning State Championships, and the competition is friendly?
“Oh, it’s a lot of fun. It’s a hobby,” said Gary Beaderstabt, a member of the Gold Prospectors of Colorado.
“No, it’s relaxing,” said Marty Allen, President of Gold Prospectors of Colorado.
“It’s a little stressful when you know your competition is just going to kick your butt every week or every day,” said Wayne Wittkopp, who won 1st place in team division competition last year.
The Western Museum of Mining and Industry is hosting the competition this year, which was originally started by the Gold Prospectors of Colorado Club, in 1974.
“We’re not miners, we’re prospectors. We’re actually finding the source of where the gold is coming from,” Allen said.
“The actual town of Denver was built on the gold mining. This whole state was built on gold mining,” Beaderstabt said.
The best part? No experience required.
“You don’t have no rush. And it’s a skill because once people get going and not to hurry because sometimes you’ll throw your gold out, out of a pan. But you take your time and it pays off,” said Charles Engler, the Vice President of Gold Prospects of Colorado.
And you can even learn the day you compete.
“We had one gentleman come in, in Victor in 1992, never panned for gold before and he won the state competition,” Beaderstabt said.
The championship is divided into divisions, including old timers for ages 55 and up, juniors, and teams.
Each group has a speed challenge where they must find eight gold nuggets the fastest.
“Once you learn the techniques and stuff, you can go out pretty much anywhere that there’s water and try to search for gold. And you know, Colorado is very rich in gold even though it’s flower gold, it’s very fine, fine gold and there’s a lot out there,” Allen said.
And of course, the top three winners get a medal with 4th place getting a crying towel.
“4th place winner wasn’t getting anything, so the club came up with a crying towel award so you can now cry into your towel because you didn’t make a medal,” Wittkopp said.
The championships ago on through the weekend and is open to anyone to register and compete.