MOUNT VERNON – Summer recreation in Mount Vernon took many shapes and forms this year including partnerships with existing recreation and health agencies. The City of Mount Vernon’s
Recreation Department looked to the arts and entertainment community in providing meaningful, creative experiences to provide an outlet for citizens who sought recreational activities while meeting requirements of the novel coronavirus public gathering restrictions. Knox Rocks, a group of rock painters in Knox County, took the opportunity and ran with it. The activity was so popular that initial supplies for the activity needed to be doubled in order to meet the demand. Organizer, Ann Weisant, was both surprised and thrilled with the response.
“There was so much involvement from the community,” said Weisant. “As soon as the rock kits were available, we ran out and had to order more.”
Participants who painted the rocks picked up the kits at different businesses around town. Once they were finished painting the rocks, they would place them around town and advertise their location through social media. Rock friends would then search for them, photograph the discovery, and post a follow up photo on social media as well. Prizes for the program were donated by Dirko’s Pizza, Almost Famous Sweets and Sodas, Everlasting Cup, Round Hill Dairy, and Hiawatha Water Park.
In all, participants painted over 2,000 rocks with inspirational messages or images. Many of the rocks found their way to a special rock garden at Ariel~Foundation Park. Weisant explained over 450 new artists joined the program and it continues to grow. Other agencies who played a part in the successful activity included Paragraphs Bookstore, Happy Bean, Woolson’s, and Old Mr. Bailiwick’s. The Mount Vernon YMCA, the Public Library of Mount Vernon, Mount Vernon Players, and the Farmers Market also contributed to the fun.
Rocks have only been the beginning of newly tapped creativity as the group is looking to also partner with Ariel~Foundation Park in developing hand-made Christmas ornaments which will be available this year. Seeing the excitement and growing popularity of the arts and entertainment community in the summer recreation programming, Mount Vernon Mayor Matt Starr explained how pleased he was with the adaptation of activities in light of the COVID-19 restrictions.
“[Covid] definitely forced us to rethink how we deliver recreational programming opportunities in Mount Vernon, and many groups like Knox Rocks provided opportunities for a new audience to exercise their creative muscle,” said Starr. “To see the Summer in the City evolve into Autumn in the City and Winter in the City, I’m delighted to see this become a year-round program and reach untapped potential.”
Weisant’s group is currently working on plans for the fall.