Think of it as a sort of a Stone Age version of Pokémon Go. Or maybe an Easter egg hunt with rocks.
Either way, Shawnee and Lenexa have jumped on a trend that has taken off in cities around the country in which people paint rocks and hide them for other people to find, with comments posted on a dedicated Facebook page.
Since it got started shortly before the July 4th weekend, Shawnee Rocks has taken off in a big way, said Mayor Michelle Distler. The Facebook group page had 300 members after only six days, and now has more than 770, she said.
People love the chance to walk around hunting rocks in Shawnee’s public places, she said. And now the Chamber of Commerce and some businesses have joined in as well.
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The chamber recently hid 12 “Visit Shawnee” rocks that could each be redeemed for a $10 gift certificate at the local Smoothie King. The owner of By B Boutique has hidden rocks in her store, and at the Shear Thing Salon, a table has been set up for rock painting.
The game is simple. Find a painted rock. Keep it and set out your own painted rock in a different place. Or rehide the same rock for someone else to find. Posting a picture on the Shawnee Rocks Facebook page (whose address should be on the flip side of each rock) lets other people see if their rocks have been found. Some people also post clues on the page to where they hid the rocks.
There aren’t many rules. The rocks should be hidden in public places, Distler said. And she suggested outdoor acrylic paint with a sprayed-on clear coat to keep the design rain-proof.
You don’t have to be a Shawnee resident to play. “Some participants are actually residents of Merriam, but they’re having so much fun they are coming over here,” Distler said.
As for design ideas, there’s plenty of help. Distler and her daughter have painted pictures of food, princesses, emojis and Minion characters from animated movies. And ideas abound on Pinterest, where rock painting is a well-established thing. A quick Pinterest search turned up more than 1,000 images of rock art.
The game appeals to people on many levels, Distler said. “It’s family friendly. We’ve got families painting together, hiding together, finding rocks together.”
And people have told the mayor about some other benefits she hadn’t considered when the project got started. “People are finding parks they didn’t even know Shawnee had,” she said. While rock hunting, people are discovering and stopping in at local businesses. Newcomers learn the city and even learn some Shawnee history from the placards they find in the parks, she added.
“I think there has been so much positive benefit to this,” she said.
Lenexa Rocks started in mid-July and now has more than 160 members. The city got kids in day camps involved by asking them to paint the initial rocks that were seeded around the city, said Susanne Neely, recreation supervisor for the city Parks and Recreation Department. A new art gallery in Old Town, the KC Art Angels, has also been active in rock painting, she said.
Lenexa asks rock hiders to keep them in public places, or ask permission to put them on business property. Their newsletter also asks people to keep rocks out of grass that will be mowed.
No one seems to know where the rock game originated. Neely said she heard about similar activities in Jefferson City, Mo. Distler said she heard about it from Shawnee resident Beth Kornegay, who had read a newspaper account of rock hiding in Bolivar, Mo.
“I responded, ‘This sounds great. Let’s do it!’ ” Distler said.
Neither Shawnee nor Lenexa has an ending date for the rock hiding. “We’re hoping it goes on forever as long as people keep painting and hiding rocks,” Distler said.