Rock on! Hidden painted rocks catching on in Worthington

WORTHINGTON -- There's been sightings of colorful, painted rocks all around Worthington, but don't fret -- these works of art aren't meant for the lost and found, but rather for people to find.

Some of the rocks painted by the Oberlohs. (Special to The Globe)

WORTHINGTON - There’s been sightings of colorful, painted rocks all around Worthington, but don’t fret - these works of art aren’t meant for the lost and found, but rather for people to find.


Painting and hiding rocks is the summer’s hottest new social media movement, and it’s arrived in Worthington thanks to the efforts of one local family.


It all started when Brenda and Josh Oberloh - with their sons, Bennett and Jonas - took a trip to Sioux Falls, S.D. While playing around, Jonas, 7, noticed a painted rock under a bench.



“I thought I should just leave it, because I thought it was a decoration at first,” Jonas said.

But then Brenda picked it up, and noticed it read “Sioux Falls Rocks: take a pic and post” on the back side of the rock. Walking around a sculpture garden later in the day, the family found even more rocks, and realized it wasn’t an accident.


The Oberlohs got home, logged onto Facebook and found “Sioux Falls Rocks,” a group with more than 4,000 members.


When someone finds a rock, he or she posts the finding on Facebook, then either keeps the rock or re-hides it. The hobby has spread like wildfire, especially in the Midwest, with “Northeast Ohio Rocks” on Facebook accumulating nearly 170,000 members.



As it looked like a fun activity, the Oberlohs started “Worthington MN Rocks” on Facebook on July 4 and started hiding rocks soon after. In less than a month, the group now has amassed more than 100 members.


Bennett, 10, said the family has painted nearly 100 rocks so far, varying from depictions of superheroes to pokeballs to general positive messages and everything in between.


They’ve hidden rocks all over the region. The Flash was hidden at Pizza Ranch, while the Green Lantern was left in Le Mars, Iowa.


The family paints rocks for various events in the region, depicting legendary rockers for Crazy Days and cartoon vegetables for the farmers’ market. Josh was planning on making a firefighter rock for the Worthington Fire Department’s 125-year celebration next Saturday.

“The idea is you’ll interact with people on some level - it’s kind of a random act of kindness, to brighten up someone’s day,” Brenda said. “It’s also just fun to paint and to create.”


The possibilities for painted rocks are seemingly limitless. Jonas made an “emoji” rock that features a bunch of yellow circles. He was feeling tired the night he painted it, so painted a tired face on one of the circles.


“The idea is, someone could find the rock, and paint how they felt that day,” Brenda said.


By the end, all of the circles should be filled up with emojis. However, nobody has put any faces on Jonas’s rock just yet. In a week, if nobody picks it up, Jonas said he would go back and put a sad emoji on it.


So far, the page has been active, with residents finding some of the Oberlohs’ rocks and posting pictures with them.


“It’s a great feeling to see somebody post that they found the rock you made,” Brenda said. “We had two kids find a lizard rock, and you could see in the picture they were very proud of it.”

However, the family wants to see more people involved in painting and hiding their own rocks. They’ve had people over for painting parties and will be inviting group members to come over and learn about rock painting.


Bennett said acrylic paint is the best medium, and it’s a good idea to have multiple sizes of paint brushes for certain details. Other than that, all it takes is a rock and a little creativity … and maybe some mod podge. And probably some sealant.


People are also encouraged to drop the rocks off at faraway locations when they travel. Bennett and Jonas’s grandparents are taking a trip to Kentucky soon, and they’ll have no choice but to take some colorful rocks with them.

“The rocks will travel, so we’ll see how far they go,” Brenda said.


Though it’s focused on the city of Worthington, the page is generally meant to be for the entire Worthington corner of Minnesota and Iowa. Just don’t confuse it with Worthington (Ohio) Rocks.

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