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Oxford Rocks: A Community Wide Game

"They just call me the rock lady."

That's how Cristin Grenier is known by the Oxford community. She's a mother of three, wife to a Miami professor and a student herself -- but most know her as the rock lady.

When Cristin was visiting her hometown near Champaign, Illinois in May of last year, her sister suggested they take the kids to find rocks that people painted and hid around town.

Cristin assumed someone in Oxford was doing the same, but soon discovered nobody was. So she took it upon herself to start the never-ending game.

Cristin started the Oxford Rocks Facebook group that summer. The page is used for participants to post photos of the rocks they've found and clues about where they are hidden. Some people choose to keep the rocks, while others have fun hiding them again.

The phenomena has grown -- businesses in town started donating gift cards and other items to give away as prizes. Cristin does a weekly scavenger hunt where she'll hide a rock, give clues on the page and the first person to find it, posting a photo as proof, wins the prize.

There have been no complaints from businesses since they get exposure from people coming to find rocks. You're Fired even hosted a rock painting event.

There have also been booths at Uptown events where kids can stop by to paint a rock, and Cristin has invited people over to her own house to do so.

"It's been a great way to meet a lot of people," Cristin said.

She buys the rocks in bulk from Walmart -- a 30-pound box for 10 dollars. The best kind for painting are River Stones, but she also gets people who vacation up in Michigan bringing back ones from the beach.

"I have people just drop buckets of rocks off at my house."

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She and her kids find ideas on Pinterest. Sometimes her kids like a design so much they won't let that rock be hidden. Cristin's husband, an accounting professor in the Farmer School of Business, has rocks all over his office.

The kids are used to stopping and being told to hop out of the car to hide a rock.

"Oh, I always have them in my car," Cristin said.

The placement of rocks for the scavenger hunts takes more planning, though. Cristin likes to use historical or highly-trafficked spots around campus because they lend themselves to good clues. She stumped people once -- no one could decode the clue she gave for the Lottie Moon house -- and only one rock, though gone from its hiding place, was never claimed.

"You find them anywhere," Cristin said.

Uptown, Oxford Community Park and the walking trails are favorite spots, but they could truly be anywhere.

"If I go to the grocery store, I'll leave them in with the apples," Cristin admitted.

Oxford rocks, with their location marked on the back, have made their way even further. Cristin's kids took some on their vacation to Disney, leaving one on the ferry. Others have been found in places as far as New York and Italy. And rocks from other locations have been found here.

Cristin knows that Miami students will take them, and then bring others from their hometown. "Go everywhere," she encourages.

Cristin and another mom are working to put together a rock park -- a place for rocks with inspirational quotes or words to make sentences that can be educational. She wants it at the corner of Locust and Contreras where there's a small park with no more than a few benches and foliage.

"I think it'd be nice to put it somewhere where there's not a lot going on otherwise."

She's also thinking of painting and hiding mini pumpkins instead to fit the season. But there will always be plenty of rocks hidden around town.

"You just have to keep your eyes peeled," Cristin whispered like it was a secret.