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What made rock painting become so popular?

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By Cindy Beamon
Columnist

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Pet rocks ... and now painted rocks. It’s hard to figure out what made them so popular.

When I was a teenager, I remember buying a "pet rock" with plastic eyes glued to it and packaged in a cute box with witty instructions on how to care for it. The rocks were nothing spectacular, but for some reason, everyone had to have one. Some credited the inexplicable craze to the marketing genius of Gary Dahl, who became a millionaire overnight.

Now children and adults of all ages are painting rocks and hiding them for others to find. The craze that has spread across the country is definitely more fun than pet rocks.

Rather than buying already decorated rocks, people create their own designs and have fun doing it together.

The task also gives people a chance to show kindness to other people. Finding a colorful rock can brighten a person's day. I was walking downtown not too long ago and spotted a pink rock with "Love" painted on it and smiled.

Rachel Cathcart, one of the moms at a paint party at Studio 511 Art and Soul, said she liked that elderly residents at the Virginia Dare Apartments next door were finding rocks. A colorful rock could make someone's life less lonely, she said.

An Associated Press story we ran on Sunday told about a woman who was undergoing chemotherapy and how finding two rocks with inspiring messages helped ease her struggle.

Rock hunting also gives families an excuse to spend time together. Last week, I spotted two families strolling downtown in search of the hidden treasures. Suddenly, I overheard one child squeal with excitement.

"Look Daddy, I found a rock. Come see," she shouted loud enough for me to hear a few blocks away.

Even with all these positives, it's hard to explain what caused rock painting to suddenly ignite into the trend it has become.

Children today have access to all types of high-tech devices made by companies willing to spend millions of dollars to market their electronics.

Rocks, are, well, rocks. They are old as the earth and cannot compete with high-action, high-excitement entertainment that the younger generation has grown up using.

So what's the sudden appeal?

An interview I had with Tennessee-based illusionist Brock Gill, who will be performing at Mid-Atlantic Christian University on August 27, offers a hint.

Gill said today's younger generation loves live shows where they have a chance to interact with the performer and other people.

"Being glued to the screen for so long, when they see something in a different way, it's really fresh to them and exciting to watch," he said.

He finds his audiences, usually between the ages of 14 and 25, are also drawn to people who are "real and authentic." He said that youth enjoy watching his illusions and tricks on stage, but they are mostly drawn to his message about truth and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

That search for truth may be as old as the rocks that people young and old are painting.

Cindy Beamon is editor of the Albemarle Life section of The Daily Advance.

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