A rock solid alternative to the Pokemon Go craze is encouraging Sedalians to get off their cell phones, step into the real world, and move through the community to search for creatively decorated rocks hidden throughout town.
Instead of using a cell phone to capture digital creations in a virtual world, Sedalia Rocks is completely the opposite. The game promotes family participation, community, meeting new people and creativity.
Several weeks ago administrators of the local rocky phenom, Megan Adams, a community support specialist at Burrell Behavioral Health, and Misty Gray, a manager and Zumba instructor at Brian’s Gym, decided to see if the game would work in the Sedalia area. They began a Facebook page and as of Friday the game had 1,630 members.
Adams said she visited Bolivar where a woman had started a Rocks game. In the first week, it had amassed 5,000 players. Adams was intrigued and decided to try it in the Sedalia area.
“It’s kind of like pay-it-forward and a scavenger hunt into one,” Gray said. “Down in Bolivar there are people painting rocks and leaving money with the rock.”
Gray said the game is easy to play: you buy paint and sealer, find a rock, paint it, then hide the rock. Once the rock is hidden the player takes a photo and posts it to the Sedalia Rocks Facebook page along with a clue. When painting the rock the women said the Facebook icon and the words Sedalia Rocks should be painted on the back of the rock so others know it’s part of the game.
“It’s been up about four weeks and it’s just now really going crazy,” Adams said. “People are out all hours of the day, all hours of the night. Children, elderly, disabled, it doesn’t discriminate age, or anything. The paint is 50 cents, the sealer is less than $4. Just paint some rocks and hide them. Rocks are free.”
Adams said she thinks the game is safer than Pokemon Go since there’s less chance of someone stalking the players.
“It’s about getting people out into their community and off their phones,” she said. “Yes you have to take a picture and post it, but you don’t have to be on your phone all the time like Pokemon Go.”
Some of the rocks are true art pieces, painted with multiple colors, designs and inspirational messages. For those who fall in love with a particular rock there’s an option.
“Part of the rules are, you are welcome to keep the rock,” Adams noted. “If it speaks to you, keep it.”
“But once you set it free, it’s free, it’s no longer yours,” Gray said of the rocks. “So you almost have to really think ‘do I want to set this rock free, because I may never, ever get to see it again.’”
The women said more people are interested in finding the rocks than painting them, although several people on the Facebook page have discussed having a painting party. After playing for awhile both Gray and Adams agree the game becomes an “addiction.”
“I think we’ve probably mass-produced 200 rocks,” Gray added. “Just between us two, and we’ve got over 1,600 (people) on the page right now. Of those 1,600, probably 30 are making rocks.”
Adams and Grey usually spend three hours a day painting rocks, creating between eight to 10 a day. Children are starting to get excited about the game and are starting to paint their own rocks also.
“It’s starting to pick up,” Adams said. “I’m seeing more and more this week that are painting rocks. If everybody keeps rocks and nobody hides rocks the game will be over. We want it to go on forever, there’s no deadline.”
The women said the game also helps the players forge new friendships as they post their clues online and paint rocks, plus it helps to find local areas some players may never have heard of before.
“There’s been several people say ‘wow I didn’t even know that place existed until I saw the clue,’” Adams said.
“There are businesses involved,” Adams noted. “The manager down there at McDonald’s painted a rock to look like French fries and said ‘whoever finds this rock and brings it in, we’ll give you free fries and we’ll re-hide the rock.’ So, we are hoping eventually some businesses will get involved.’”
The women said they ask the players not to place rocks inside buildings or businesses.
“If the businesses are OK with it that’s one thing, but where that becomes a problem is if they’re not open 24/7, you can’t get to them,” Adams said.
Outdoor hot-spots for finding rocks include the State Fair Community College campus, downtown Sedalia, Galaxy Theater and local parks. Adams and Gray also plan to soon get local nursing homes involved with the game.
As the game progresses, and more rocks are hidden, the Facebook page may not be as necessary. Instead of posting clues players will only post when they find a rock.
“Eventually people will just stubble upon rocks,” Adams said. “They’ll post it ‘hey I found this rock.’ There will be no clue.”
“I was added to this group not knowing much about it,” Katie Marie posted on the Sedalia Rocks Facebook page on Tuesday. “… Tonight on a whim, I decided to tell the girls about this and we proceeded to go look for just one rock … they ended up finding nine!!! They had so much fun and are still talking about it!”
The women certainly weren’t stoned-faced when they talked about the game. Talking about Sedalia Rocks brought smiles and laughter to both of them. They hope that feeling of fun transfers to the players involved with the game.
“Some people say ‘oh it’s just a rock, we just paint a rock and hide it,’ but no it’s so much more,” Adams noted.
“It’s boosting people’s spirits, it really is,” Gray added. “When you’ve got somebody who’s wheelchair bound and the best part of their day is to be able to get out and look for rocks … it’s wonderful.”
Those interested in becoming a Sedalia Rocks member may request to join the Facebook group by searching “Sedalia Rocks- MO Official.” Adams said the group purpose statement and rules are posted on the page and can be accessed by clicking on the word “Files.”
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or @flbemiss.