Three children shovel dirt and rocks to find trace amount of gold at Bellville's Gold Rush Days.
Children under age 14 can learn gold-hunting techniques at Gold Rush Days during Sept. 2 and 3 in Bellville.

BELLVILLE — Children in Bellville had the chance to strike it rich on Saturday at the Ohio Buckeye Gold Prospectors’ Gold Rush Days.

A dozen kids under 14 learned how to use a high banker sluice to separate gold from rocks and dirt Saturday afternoon and will have another chance on Sunday.

The Buckeye Chapter of the Gold Prospectors Association of America started Gold Rush Days near the Clear Fork Mohican River in 1996 to celebrate Ohio’s history in the Gold Rush.

In 1852, Dr. James Lee struck gold in Wildcat Hollow between Bellville and Butler. The Buckeye state founded a local chapter of the Gold Prospectors Association of America in 1996 and has celebrated Ohio’s gold rush history since then.

The Labor Day weekend festival includes vendors selling panning equipment, vials of gold, treasure-hunting supplies and crafts. Admission, classes and parking are free.

Chapter activities director Patrick O’Masters said Gold Rush Days teaches activities like panning for gold and metal-detecting and allows kids and families to hunt for their own gold in the Clear Fork River.

“We have people from small children to grandparents out here playing in the river,” O’Masters said. “This is truly an activity that anyone can enjoy.”

Ohio’s gold is fine and sparse, but treasure-hunters use the same skills as miners did in California in the 1800s.

Gold Rush Committee co-chairman Greg Bokan has helped children at the common dig lessons separate rocks and dirt from heavy sand and gold for 11 years.

“The equipment needs to be cleaned about every hour or so to keep up, but the kids seem to like it,” he said.

Kids at the common dig lessons get to share the riches of their efforts by taking home a bag of the concentrates at the bottom of the sluice bucket, dusted with pieces of real gold.

The festival is located at 1099 Cutnaw Road in Bellville.

Sunday’s schedule of events includes a 9 a.m. kids’ gold-panning lesson, a common dig for children under 14 at noon and metal detecting lessons at 2 p.m.

More information about the event can be found online and on Facebook.

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