Painted rock hunting fad lands in area communities
Your eyes are not deceiving you — that painted rock is staring at you.
That is a Minion peeking out among the morning glories. And that strawberry isn’t really a fruit.
Someone — you can likely find out who by going onto Facebook — painted that rock and hid it just for you to find. Now, your duty is twofold: Take a photo of your smiling face with that rock and post it to the corresponding Facebook page, and hide it again.
Rock hunting has boomed in recent months, coinciding for some with the end of the school year. Several Facebook groups in the area are home to loose associations of painters and hiders and those who seek the rocks, from Granite City’s 6,000-plus members to Waterloo’s nearly 2,000, Lebanon’s more than 200 and Belleville’s 97.
“I never thought it would take off the way it has,” says Lauren Dix, of Granite City, who started Granite(Rocks) Illinois on Facebook in June.
“Everybody’s doing it; it’s crazy,” she said.
Lauren and her children, a daughter, 7, and son, 11, got started on a lark with a group of her daughter’s friends. The group’s goal is to give back to the community and spread joy, so one afternoon the group painted 75 rocks to hide.
“And that was a month ago. It’s just blown up,” Lauren said.
In Granite City, even the police department is in on hiding rocks, Lauren says. Businesses are using hidden rocks in promotions, but by far, most are painted by creative folk.
Painted rocks are hidden in plain sight — on top of a fence, in the crook of a tree, tucked into a flowerpot — and patiently wait for a keen set of eyes.
“It’s neat to see the family walking by, with the kids’ heads looking down and (moving) side to side,” said painter Jeff Harris, who teaches sixth grade at Grant Middle School in Fairview Heights and lives in Lebanon.
“It’s like teaching, when you see a kid get it. And the rock hunting is like that.”
Jeff likes to give clues on the Lebanon, IL Rocks Facebook page as to where the hidden rocks are. It helps to know Lebanon’s history, like when he suggested “Foreign TREEt” was where a rock would be. That one was hidden among the Lebanon Cedars.
Rock hunters tend to be children, and their families tend to be pleased that they’re getting outdoors and mobile.
Melissa Graham, of Waterloo, grew up in the country and said painting rocks then was “something to pass the time sometimes.” About three weeks ago, she started the Waterloo Rocks (Illinois) Facebook page as a way to help urge children and their parents to explore outdoors.
Now, she’s inspired to see what others have painted for her daughter, Audrey Stanley, 8, to find.
“There are some pretty spectacular paintings on these rocks,” Melissa said.
Audrey likes emoji and flowers and says the rocks are usually pretty easy to find.
“I had found a heart rock,” recently, Audrey said, that she kept for a couple days before hiding it again.
The really neat thing about hiding rocks and the Facebook page connection, Melissa says, is that painters and seekers are able to track the rocks.
“We did it when we were kids and it was fun. But we didn’t have the social interaction,” Melissa said. “You get to watch your rock be found by other people and see where they end up and where they traveled.”
How to find a rock
Many who hide rocks like to post clues on Facebook, some in hopes that finders will share their joy at their successful hunt. To find clues and share success, look up these, among other rock groups popping up every week:
- Belleville Family Rocks
- Fairview Heights Illinois Rocks
- Lebanon, IL Rocks
- O’Fallon/Shiloh Rocks
- Mascoutah Rocks
- Smithton/Freeburg Rocks Project
- Waterloo Rocks (illinois)