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The Penn Dixie quarry in Hamburg is becoming so popular it is overwhelming the volunteers who give tours of the fossil site.

"You always look at people as your product," said Jerold C. Bastedo, president of the Hamburg Natural History Society, which operates the 32.5 acre Penn Dixie Paleontological and Outdoor Education Center.

Last year 3,469 people visited the quarry, noted for its 380 million-year-old trilobites, corals, brachiopods, crinoid stems and snails. This year 6,093 picked through the quarry for their own fossil trophies.

"This thing has mushroomed for us unexpectedly," Bastedo told the Hamburg Town Board Monday afternoon. "It's great. It's overwhelming us as a volunteer organization."

Among the visitors were fossil hunters from England, Germany, Ecuador and Japan, he said.

"Now we're sending our newsletter to Japan," he said.

The former quarry near Big Tree and Bay View roads has been known as a valuable source of fossils for years. The Town of Hamburg bought the 57-acre site in 1995 and deeded 32.5 acres to the society the following year. The town kept the rear and front sections of the parcel for economic and housing development.

Bastedo said 43 school groups with 2,400 students came to the quarry this year, compared with 2,207 last year. The public and other groups numbered 3,693 this year at 46 events, compared with 1,262 at 21 events in 1997.

The Natural History Society provided one-month exhibits for the Blasdell, Eden, Lackawanna and Orchard Park libraries this year. The society also made 12 presentations to various professional and community groups last year.

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