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The dictionary describes a rock as the solid mineral material forming part of the surface of the earth, but for the residents of Newcomerstown rocks have taken on a much deeper meaning. A new family friendly activity is sweeping across Northeastern Ohio. People are taking ordinary rocks and painting uplifting designs and messages on them. Once decorated the rocks are then hidden around town in the hopes that they will bring joy to whoever finds them. Missy Lafferty and Beth Hill heard about a group called #Northeast Ohio Rocks that were spreading happiness throughout much of Ohio and they decided Newcomerstown could rock it as well.
A little over a month ago, the first #newcomerstownohiorocks were painted and hid. A facebook group was set up so that finders could share photos of rocks they locate and the original artists would be able to see how far their creations travel. The response has been overwhelming. In just a few short weeks the group has grown to over 1500 members. Due to the fact that many people hunt and hide rocks as a family, the number of people participating may even be higher than that. Newcomerstown resident Brittany Smith says "I love hearing the excitement in my children's voices and watching their faces light up with the biggest smile. The best is when they can see another rock hunter find their rock they just hid."
The rules are simple. Pick a rock, paint it, attach a tag on the bottom and hide it. The group asks that no one trespass, messages are kept kid friendly, and rocks should only be hidden in safe, easy to find locations. The tag should read Newcomerstown Ohio Rocks, please share a photo on our facebook page, then re-hide me and #yourowntag. For example, any rocks designed by the Newcomerstown News would say #newcomerstownnewsrocks. Many rock artists are including the date the rock was painted with the hope that it's journey will be long.
The die hard rock designers recommend starting with a clean and dry rock. Paint the rock with acrylic craft paint or permanent markers. Attach the tag with modge podge paste to the bottom of the rock. Once the design and tag have dried, spraying the entire rock with clear outdoor sealant will ensure it holds up to the weather. Megan Barnhouse hopes the idea "will be around for awhile even if the hype wears off, there will be rocks that have yet to be found that will serve as a sort of time capsule, so to speak."
Retired Newcomerstown School teacher Kathy Shryock-Anderson enjoys reading all the posts that parents make about having family rock painting time. She believes it is a great family activity, pointing out that "it is fun for young and old alike. Every rock is unique regardless of artistic ability." The activity has truly been a blessing to many families, giving both parent and child something to look forward to together. The fact that participation can be a quick five-minute rock hunt or an all day crafting session, it really is something any age can enjoy. The online rock group has developed into somewhat of a team. When property was damaged and it was speculated that it happened when someone was hunting a rock, the entire group banded together to ensure something positive was done to remedy the issue. "My hope was to just make someone smile, plain and simple. I'm a painter and hide my rocks when they are done. I don't hunt rocks, I just spread smiles," said James. Hall agreed with her, "even if I never see my rocks posted, I'll still know it touched someone, someway and somewhere."