For the past several months, Dade City and Zephyrhills residents have been noticing a strange new phenomenon taking place in their respective towns. Colorful, hand-painted rocks have been popping up all over Pasco county.
Since late last year, East Pasco citizens, young and old, have been decorating and hiding rocks and posting their locations on Facebook with more and more residents begin taking part in the activity nearly every day. Renee Crum, a Zephyrhills resident, founded the East Pasco chapter of rock hiders in November of 2016, but the activity did not originate in the state of Florida.
“A friend of mine in Fulton Missouri lost her four-year-old son and started painting rocks in his memory with a local group up there,” explained Crum. “She shared them on Facebook and I thought it was so cute and a nice way for the community to kind of rally around her and give her support during a very difficult time in her life.”
About a month after hearing the story, Crum discovered that residents in Lakeland were also getting in on the painting activity when she saw a page on Facebook, which got her thinking.
“I checked to see whether or not we had any local groups in East Pasco, and there was not a single one. So, I started one in Zephyrhills,” said Crum. “Well, pretty soon people in other towns started asking of they could join us and we just kept expanding.”
Participants usually get in on the activity by coming across the page on Facebook or by being invited by friends or family.
“My sisters and nieces started doing it, and I thought it was a little odd to just paint rocks,” said Derek Clements, a Dade City resident. “But then I found out about the hiding and finding part, so I thought I would give it a try.”
Rocks pop up in the most surprising places throughout East Pasco, including parks, city landmarks, and even outside local establishments. According to Clements, parks and wooded areas are the best place to hide and hunt for rocks.
“Trees usually have nooks that make it easy,” he said.
Many residents see the activity as a way to showcase their artistic talents; some create very vivid and detailed masterpieces. Clements takes great pride in each rock he paints. One of his favorite creations has been a stone painted to resemble the Heart of Te Fiti, an object featured in the Disney film “Moana.” He even painted it with special glow in the dark paint to give it that magical luminescent effect.
To keep their participants interested and the creations coming, the East Pasco group introduced the idea of a weekly challenge. Each week, a new theme is introduced, such as music or appreciation. The themes help to give each artist fresh ideas for more rocks while at the same time aiming to deliver an impactful message. At often times, group members begin to covet a fellow artist’s stone that they’ve seen on Facebook, but become disheartened when they are unable to find its hiding place. To remedy this, Crum and other members created the “rock swap.”
“The rock swap is where artists can trade their rocks with other artists,” Crum elaborated. “You can either make specific rocks for the purpose of trading, or you may choose to trade ones that you have previously found and kept.”
Crum and her fellow artists hope that their creations will bring the community a little bit closer together. To her, the activity has so many positive meanings.
“It means that someone is choosing to be part of something bigger than just their own home,” she said. “It encourages people to think about someone else first…it means that those who are sad and lonely are no longer, because they have joy painting and hiding these rocks and watching and listening to the smiles and laughter of those who find them.”
For Clements, the most satisfying part of the activity is making someone else happy with his art.
“I love seeing people’s reactions to the rocks they have found or seeing people enjoy a rock that you made” he said.
For those students who have gone home for the summer, this is a fun activity that they can share with their own communities and an opportunity to expand this activity across the nation. Crum has even taken to hiding rocks on the Saint Leo University campus with this goal in mind.
“I have hidden probably close to 50 rocks on campus with the hopes of getting the student body involved,” she said.
For those interested in getting in on the fun, they can visit the EPR/East Pasco Rocks on Facebook for more information on how to make a unique difference in their community.