On the banks of the Savannah River near the Georgia state line you can find the beautiful town of North Augusta, South Carolina! North Augusta is a medium-sized city, but still a small town, rich with history and nostalgia over what might have been. It’s residents are a nice mix of proud Southern belles and gents, military transplants, medical students, hospital employees, and more. This is my town. Here you can find grand bed and breakfasts in 100 year old homes and charming locally owned small businesses like bakeries, boutiques, and brunch spots! North Augusta is not just “Mayberry,” though, it is also a city buzzing with the excitement and controversy over commercial growth and expansion.
Right now in North Augusta there is something else that is growing in addition to real estate opportunities. Whether you are ambling about Georgia Avenue or running errands across town you may find your eyes being drawn to colorful bits of happiness in the form of painted rocks. North Augusta Rocks is a social movement that is rapidly gaining a large following in this sweet town. The idea is certainly not exclusive to our neck of the woods, painted rock communities can be found in a lot of cities around the globe including our neighbor, Augusta. I can't help thinking, however, that for North Augusta it seems to be the perfect expression of the eccentricity that is our town. Loving, encouraging, creative, and fun, if you find yourself happening up one of the hundreds of hidden rocks around town it is sure to put a smile on your face!
North Augusta Rocks has a Facebook group in which it’s 800+ members post photos of rocks that they have found or painted and hidden. You can also find picture “hints” of where rocks may be discovered so that you can keep your eyes peeled as you explore outdoors, or support one of our many local businesses. I found myself jittery with excitement yesterday as I purchased some river rock for my daughters and I to paint our first set of rocks! When I picked my five year old up from school I had her compile a list of her favorite places in town so we could decide where we wanted to hide our masterpieces.
Curious about the origins of this movement I reached out to one of the administrators of the NAR Facebook page, MaryAnn Meyers, who graciously allowed me to bombard her with questions about this fun activity. MaryAnn admits that she can’t remember where she first got the idea of rock painting, positive it was something she probably saw in another town somewhere. She immediately recognized the beauty of the idea, though, especially the opportunity it gives families to do something creative and then get outside and enjoy the outdoors together! “I hope people will spend more time with their families outdoors, having fun talking or even indoors painting” MaryAnn said. It’s safe to say that anyone can see the positive impact such a simple pastime could potentially have on our community. “Basically more people making connections. If you feel lonely, go rock hunting. Or paint a rock and see the posted picture and smile on the person’s face who found it.” She adds.
I myself joined the Facebook group a few months ago when it popped up on my “news feed” due to a friend becoming a member. Since then the number of posts, just like it’s membership has increased tenfold, and I find myself anxiously waiting to see more pictures of our youngest citizens displaying their artwork and treasure hunt spoils. In an ironic twist MaryAnn says that she has yet to find a rock herself, but that her nieces and nephews are rock finding pros! Her favorite rock that she has painted thus far simply read “Joy”.
I can’t imagine a more fun thing for North Augustinians to do to build community togetherness and make our town even more cheerful than I already find it to be. I am looking forward to hiding the 7 rocks that my girls and I painted yesterday. Thanks to the Facebook group, North Augusta Rocks is even fostering neighborly relationships and new friendships! “We’ve had people hiding rocks that have started friendships with people out rock hunting!” MaryAnn told me. One thing is for sure, this puts geocaching to shame!
If you’re a local I strongly encourage you to join us, and get to painting! If you’re not fortunate enough to live in North Augusta, then start a movement in your own town. Spread some happiness, because frankly, it rocks!