Monterey Bay Jade Festival
A project of Jade Events Unlimited
A non-profit 501c3 organization
Our mission is to inspire the discovery and celebration of jade and jade culture.
We envision a sustainable organization that is a leader in connecting diverse jade communities and empowering local and international artisans.
2023 Monterey Bay Jade Festival Beneficiaries
In alignment with the giving history of the Big Sur Jade Festival, we have chosen to gift net proceeds to the schools that serve the children of Palo Colorado, Big Sur Valley and the South Coast of Big Sur for their programs of greatest need:
• Captain Cooper School – Parents Club
• Big Sur Park School
• Pacific Valley School
Board of Directors
Mike Weber brings an entrepreneurial and collaborative background with extensive experience developing and leading small organizations in dynamic growth environments. After enjoying two decades in business development and sales leadership across Hewlett Packard, Cisco Systems, and Verizon, Mike enthusiastically returned to his roots on the family farm to where he and his brother drove the rapid expansion and modernization of their 111-year-old poultry operation. Within the community, Mike has been a hands-on leader and volunteer coordinating annual fundraising events for Carmel River School, coaching his son Ben’s baseball teams from T-ball up into High School, and supporting his daughter Alex’s non-profit The Plastic Pickup, an organization driven to reduce plastic pollution in marine environments which, after hundreds of hours of free diving together, resulted in removing over 40,000 golf balls from the Monterey Bay. A waterman and avid diver from a young age, Mike discovered jade shortly after moving to the Monterey Peninsula with his family two decades ago. “Jade is the ultimate enchanter, when it finds you, a magical bond is formed for life”. For Mike, the underwater hunt for jade offers a place to rest the mind, to escape the stress of the complications of the above water world, and an opportunity to recharge the soul. Jade diving quickly brought deep friendships and connection with individuals from all walks, drawn to the rocky shoreline for the same pursuit of the ocean’s hidden gems. In leading the Organization, Mike’s goals are to increase and strengthen the community of people appreciating jade throughout the world, to grow the numbers of jade artisans and jade hunters who can prosper pursuing their interest in jade, and to chronicle jade’s importance in local communities for all to appreciate. When not working with the expanded Monterey Bay Jade Festival team, Mike can often be found diving for jade in Big Sur, spearfishing off the California Coastline, foraging in the local forests for wild mushrooms or hiking the trails of Big Sur with his partner Denise.
Justin brings his passion and organizational skills to the Festival being instrumental in Public, Sponsor/Donor and community Relations. He has been involved in the Big Sur Jade Festival for 20+ years and the Monterey Bay Jade Festival since it’s inception. Born and raised in Pacific Grove CA, Justin spent much of his younger years surfing and diving along the rugged Big Sur coastline. Now, having spent over two decades diving for jade, Justin has made a name for himself as one of the few craftsman who not only is a jade carver, but also sources it himself. Mentored by big names such as Donn Salt , Deborah Wilson and Don Wobber, Justin carries on decades of culture and tradition in his work, making sure to pay fine attention to detail creating hand-carved and finished sculptural adornments, using the finest Jades available locally and from around the world. Justin can be found in his Pacific Grove workshop carving jade and teaching classes while sharing about jade culture, to mentor up-and-coming jade artists.
I have been involved with Big Sur Jade for over 50 years now. I helped develop the Black Fir Jade Mines in 1971 which mined nephrite Jade from its source in the back hills of Big Sur. I started diving for Jade at Jade Cove in 1975, with Ed Stark, Don Wobber and Ernie Porter as my mentors.In 1979 I came out to the small town of Gorda and built the Big Sur Jade Co. This was to take advantage of free electricity to run my Jade processing tools. Up at the mines, we had to carry 5 gallons of gas on our backs almost a mile to run our saws and generator. The shop evolved into a retail outlet for our local Jade as rockhounds and jade enthusiasts found out about us. I helped start the first Big Sur Jade Festival in 1991 which has had 27 shows over the years. And now I’m a board member of the Monterey Bay Jade Festival. Over the years I’ve met and made friends with hundreds if not thousands of people that share my Love for Jade. I look forward to meeting more!
Alan Bilinsky has been a serious jade collector for the past 20+ years after visiting New Zealand and purchasing his first jade pendant, a Donn Salt designed and inspired mobius, in 2000. Alan has been coming to the Big Sur Jade Festival since then and feels grateful to be in charge of the Monterey Bay Jade Festival Security. Alan has been trying to become as knowledgeable as possible about all aspects of jade. He has attended a 2 week long carving seminars given by Matt Glasby and with his help produced 2 fine pendants. Alan is dedicated to bringing his jade love to the world. Alan is now retired on Maui. Luckily he brought few belongings but lots of jade since none is found within 2500 miles…
Elsa Rivera puts her heart into community service, events and other fun projects. Elsa is the CFO/Events Director for The Big Sur Food & Wine Festival and Executive Director of The Big Fashion Show. She created The Blue Water Project for G.I. Josie, a local organization serving veteran women and is Board Treasurer and a Surf Therapy Facilitator for Groundswell Community Project. Elsa was a founding collaborator in The Big Sur Big Sur and was voted one of ten Outstanding Women of 2017 by the Monterey County Commission on the Status of Women, recognized for her work in helping the Big Sur and Palo Colorado communities during the Soberanes Fire. She continues to be present in emergency relief with fires since then. She brings her consulting and business background to the Monterey Bay Jade Festival as well as community relations to uplift the mission of the organization. She is proud to be working with her son, Justin Barrett and the Festival Board on another project that supports the community and promotes art as essential.
In 2009 my jade journey started with the dream of finding apple green boulders while my body was fighting off a life threatening bout with West Nile virus. I used my jade dream to fuel my prospecting and long recovery from that nasty virus. Since then I’ve found some amazing Wyoming jade specimens and have met a phenomenal group of jade lovers from around the world who for me are the true treasures of my jade dream.
“As a member of the board of directors for the Monterey Jade Festival, my primary goal is to help educate festival attendees about the beauty and value of Wyoming Jade. I am passionate about this mission because I believe that by sharing my knowledge and Rare Jade Specimens with others, we can foster a greater appreciation for this unique and stunning gemstone. Through my involvement with the festival, I hope to inspire more people to discover the rich history and culture behind Wyoming Jade, and to see firsthand why it is truly one of nature’s most precious gifts.”
Cynthia McGowan Volunteer Coordinator
Cynthia Garcia McGowan is a versatile creative with a strong affinity for the outdoors and a special fondness for jade. Sindee has over 25 years of experience as a fine artist, with two decades specializing in graphic design. Currently, she works as an art instructor for children. Sindee also has a passion for volunteering which began in middle school and has continued to this day, as she contributes her time to several causes. When she’s not working, Sindee enjoys rock hounding, long hikes, and even dabbling in skateboarding. However, her true passion lies in the arts and supporting fellow artists. She’s excited to help highlight this year’s Jade Artisans and share her love of jade with the community.
Past Board Members
Rudolph “Rudy” Estrada
C0-founder of MBJF
Estrada served (semi-retired) as Chief Executive Officer of the Estradagy Business Advisors, a business and banking advisory firm started in 1987 and has represented more than $100 billion in banking assets and serving hundreds of small businesses in the areas of debt and equity finance. He was a founder and partner of Pacific Crest Bank a successful regional bank and was appointed by the mayor of Los Angeles to help start the Los Angeles Community Development Bank. In 2018 he retired after 40 years as a professor of business and management with the California State University as well as executive director of the Small Business Institute at the university. Prior experience has included serving in commercial and corporate banking for over thirty-five years in senior executive assignments for both domestic and international banking firms. In 1994 he was appointed by the president of the United States to serve as White House Commissioner on Small Business and in 1997 was once again appointed by the president to serve as White House Commissioner on the White House Fellows Commission Estrada served as the District Director of the United States Small Business Administration in California overseeing the largest federal district in the United States. He was responsible for the complete oversight of all federal small business lending and contracting programs with a portfolio of more than $4 billion and annual government contracts exceeding $450 million and a staff of 400+ employees. He has served on numerous public and private corporate boards and currently serves as Lead Director on the board of directors of East West Bank, a $62 billion bank with over 120 branches throughout the United States and China.
Estrada has published articles ranging from ancient Greek gold coinage to current economic conditions in the United States and has been quoted in a multitude of journals, newspapers, and magazines. He has received numerous national and local awards and citations for his public service and business accomplishments. He has been recognized for his outstanding board service and is a National Association of Corporate Directors Fellow. He served with military intelligence in the United States Army from 1969-70 and was awarded the Army Commendation Medal for Meritorious Service.
He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Business at the California State University, Los Angeles, and graduated with a master’s degree in Management at the University of Southern California. He completed his doctoral studies in Strategic Management at the Peter Drucker School of Management, Claremont Graduate University.
C0-founder of MBJF
Born in Transylvania, Rumania, to parents of Hungarian/Armenian/Jewish/Rumanian descent, Georg Schmerholz studied engineering/design for 2 years at University, before escaping communism to find freedom and pursue his passion for sculpture. He lived in a refugee camp in Italy for 7 months before immigrating to Sweden where he held his first exhibition of works created in Italy.
He moved to Canada two years later, where he became a home builder, designer and photographer, while establishing himself as a prominent sculptors in the Pacific North West. His figurative, wildlife and architectural sculptures can be found in many Governmental, Corporate and Private collections. Georg relocated to Northern California in 2001 and built his home and studio on a secluded 10 acres in the Sierra Nevada foothills. In 2007, Georg was drawn into the world of jade and the ‘Stone of Heaven’ became his love and passion, offering new creative freedom and technical challenges. To quote the late Sam Bernstein, author of Collecting Chinese Jade, “Those of us who have experience with jade as an art form, marvel at the innovative themes and exquisite mastery of Georg Schmerholz. Jade is among the most obdurate of nature’s materials requiring patience and great technical skill. Georg’s work places him among the first rank of contemporary artists in the world” His creations can be seen on his website: www.Schmerholz.com and his FaceBook and Instagram pages.