By Jared Schmeltzer
If you’re out for a walk around Merrill, keep your eyes open for painted rocks. Some will smile back at you, others bear messages of encouragement, while some are very artfully done. These rocks are most likely the work of members of a group called Merrill Rocks.
Over the past two years, Merrill Rocks has become a fun community activity where people paint rocks and hide them all around town. When someone finds a rock they will take a picture of it, post it to the Merrill Rocks Facebook page and then re-hide the rock.
The Merrill Rocks Facebook page – administered by Merrill residents Jessica Belant, Jennifer McKinney and Jessi Beyer – has nearly 1,400 members and continues to grow.
“It’s really to spread kindness and I believe that it brings the community closer,” Beyer said of the reasons for starting Merrill Rocks.
Most rocks can be found at public places such as parks and schools, and along the River Bend Trail, but with hundreds of the painted rocks around the community they can be found just about anywhere.
It’s really hard to say just how many painted rocks are out there now.
“Since we have started Merrill Rocks, I have probably painted and hid about 500 rocks,” Belant said. “I also know of a few people who have probably done hundreds by themselves as well.”
To participate in Merrill Rocks you can start the search for a painted rock around the community, or start by painting a rock of your own and hiding it; make sure to label the back with “Merrill Rocks.” You may join the Merrill Rocks group on Facebook and give a hint where your rock is hidden. If you don’t have Facebook, you can still participate in Merrill Rocks simply by hiding the rock for the next person to find.
Local businesses have also joined with Merrill Rocks to offer “prize rocks.” People who find the prize rocks can redeem them for a prize from the participating business.