It’s hiding behind a small tree in Sims Park, nestled in the bark at the base of the tree. Small and round, about an inch and a half in diameter with one side sticking out to create a “nose.” This one is appears to be an easter bunny, probably inspired by the upcoming holiday. It was placed back in its hiding spot, not wanting to ruin the surprise for its intended participant. A further investigation of the park revealed four more such painted rocks, left in various spots. None near the playground–safety first!–but one or two near Orange Lake.
A second trip to Frances Avenue park revealed two more rocks–one hidden in the pocket of the large rocks near the river, and another on the side of one of the picnic tables. One family there had said they had found “a whole bunch” and were planning to take them with them on a trip to Europe to hide American rocks in European cities, taking pictures along the way.
The game being played here has varying names, from “Love Rocks” to “Friendship Rocks” to “Hidden Rocks” or “Painted Rocks” according to various sources online. One thing is clear, though, New Port Richey is one of many hubs for this activity. Simple painted rocks, left around natural areas for children and adults alike to find. Some seem keen to keep the rocks, others re-hide them. Many participants seem to find enjoyment simply from creating and placing the rocks–“giving them away” as they say.
Painting rocks is nothing new, but social media has clearly put a populist spin on the practice and created a “hide and seek,” “Easter Egg hunt,” or “geocaching” niche for the activity. Finding and hiding are pastimes, and can brighten a day, especially for children. It’s also an interesting social experiment in ownership of the rocks. Once you put it down, you’re effectively giving it to the next person, an interesting way to introduce the concept of sharing to children. The ability to share photos of the location and the rock itself also creates a sense of possession and permanence. No need to keep the rock for that, and so it can be passed on to a new location or left in its original spot.
An “NPR Rocks” group lists a long post about various rules, including not placing the rocks where they could cause damage to persons or property–keep it out of the grass, they say, to keep them safe from lawnmowers. The group started in November and now has more than 15,000 subscribers–600 new ones in the last week.
The concept is simple! Paint a rock and place it where someone will find it. Bring joy and smiles to the finder! (RAK-Random Acts of Kindness.) Painting and finding rocks is for EVERYONE, not just children. Please join us and enjoy the fun!
There also appears to be a small Tarpon Springs Rocks group starting up, following in the New Port Richey area’s lead, as one member pointed out from finding a rock near the Tarpon Springs Publix on U.S.19.
Visitors to the New Port Richey area have also been taking note of the colorful attractions. The Windsor Star, a Canadian newspaper in Windsor, Ontario, recently featured an article on their own rock phenomena that included rocks found in New Port Richey, calling the painted rocks game a “low tech Pokemon Go.”
The rocks are made from purchased or found rocks–the Facebook group recommends purchasing them at Lowe’s ($7 for a 20 pound bag of dark rocks, $8 for white, they say). They then recommend using an acrylic paint, colored sharpies, or “POSCA” paint pens, available at most art stores including Michael’s. The rocks are then sealed with a spray, varnish, or mod podge. There should also be some consideration of environmental issues in choosing these products–aim for biodegradable and non-toxic products. Some have recommended a product called “Patio Paint” or milk paint, as they are made from natural materials.
“My daughter put these there,” one Facebook commenter said, “she’s gonna be excited to see them posted, [thank you].” For some, the game is about collecting, for others it’s about travel–and yet others it’s about giving and creating. Whatever they’re painted with and whatever their purpose, they are obviously more than just rocks.