Seeking something real: Vidor Rocks brings entertainment to small community, Beaumont group looks to play catchup

At a Beaumont Rocks painting party Jan. 23, Iris Smithey (not pictured) and Kath

Looking for an outdoor, child-friendly activity this spring? A community hide-and-seek painted rock group might be right for you.

The Vidor Rocks Facebook group, which started in mid August 2016, now has 4,575 members. The Beaumont Rocks group began around the same time and has 224 members.

The Vidor group’s founder, Angie Jacobs Beaumont, is a Vidorian who moved away for 20 years, living in Houston, but came back in the last few years. One of her friends who lives in Washington State started a similar group, sparking the idea.

“We don’t have a lot of entertainment; we don’t have movies or any type of activities other than a skating rink that only the younger kids go to,” Beaumont said. “It just seemed to be a big hit.”

Like letterboxing or geocaching, which also encourage outdoor activity, the rules are simple.

Instead of finding a box with a hand-carved rubber stamp to ink in your logbook from clues posted online, like letterboxing, or using a GPS device to hike to a remote location for a box of trinkets where you can take anything as long as you leave something, like geocaching, people go searching in local parks for painted rocks or paint and hide their own, marking them “keep” or “rehide.”

Some places are off limits, like cemeteries and fire stations.

Beaumont said friends added friends to the online group, and even local merchants joined in, sponsoring gift baskets for every 1,000th member. At 3,000 members, the hair salon next to the Market Basket in Vidor sponsored a basket, hiding a special rock and posting clues about where to find it.

“People from Rhode Island ... joined because they’re from Vidor and they want to follow their friends,” Beaumont said.

Mayor Robert Viator believes groups like this are important.

“We have our Pride and Progress program where we’re trying to clean the city up, offering tax abatements,” said Viator. “Along with Pride and Progress, I think more than just government action, it takes community spirit, community involvement, and events or ideas like this that bring the community together never hurts.”

His wife and daughter are both artists and members of Vidor Rocks, he said.

“We’re a welcoming city; we welcome any new citizens to come, and we like them to be a part of the community,” Viator said. “It just brings people together.”

Viator thinks Vidor Rocks has been especially successful due to the “tight-knit community.”

“I think ideas like this probably take off faster in smaller communities than they do larger, just by the nature of how close people are,” he said.

Viator has a special rock, the mayor’s rock, which can be kept, re-hidden, or returned to him for a $25 gift certificate and a tour of City Hall.

Annabelle Carter and her mom, Katy Carter, were the first finders. They toured city hall together with Viator.

They found their first rock at homecoming and have been painting and hunting rocks ever since. Together, mom and daughter hid 10 rocks with painted hearts and crosses.

“It’s family time!” Annabelle said. 

“Instead of like going to the movies, we’ll go around town at night,” Katy said. “We’ve had a lot of laughs and made a lot of memories doing it. We like doing the ones that have the clues with them. Those are our favorite ones.”

Melissa Blacketer, a Vidor resident who went to high school with Beaumont in the ’80s, helped Beaumont to hide several rocks along the Vidor homecoming parade route.

“[It’s] something parents and kids can do together. Maybe even find places in their own community that they never knew existed,” Blacketer said. “It’s therapeutic to me to paint them. I think it’s great that it brings the community together.”

Rock hunting is like kids looking for Pokémon on the popular app Pokémon Go, but Blacketer thinks Vidor Rocks is a better alternative.

“They were burning their parents’ data plan up and looking for something that’s not real,” she said.

Tammie Block, a teacher for the Adult Transition students at Vidor ISD, reached out to Beaumont for help in using Vidor Rocks to teach communication skills. The Adult Transition class is for students age 18-22 that have completed their high school requirements but need assistance in finding a job and transitioning to adulthood.

Several of her students are autistic.

“We try to get them out, get them involved in the community, work on their communications skills,” she said.

Employees at the On Your Way Too Mobil convenience store in Vidor hid the rocks throughout the shelves and aisles for the activity.

Beaumont Rocks

Beaumont Rocks held a painting party Jan. 23. Iris Smithey and Katherine Symons brought together other moms with young children and encourages others to get involved.

“It’s really neat because people often go between towns, so we have Beaumont Rocks in Vidor and Vidor Rocks in Beaumont. There is also a Winnie group, Baytown, Mid-County, Brazoria County, Sour Lake, two in Orange, and Bridge City,” Symons said, adding that she posted links to the other groups in Beaumont Rocks.

Symons and her family moved from New York to Southeast Texas two years ago, and she said that rock-hunting helps her connect with the community.

“The community rocks ... are a great source of pride and joy during a time when we don’t really have much to be proud of,” she said. “We’re so caught up in technology and the woes of the world, and sometimes we just need to take a step back and remember when life was simpler.”

Eleanor Skelton can be reached at (409) 832-1400, ext. 222, or by e-mail at eleanor [at] theexaminer [dot] com.

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