Slithering, stony serpents appreciated in Evans City and Zelienople
South Florida’s problem with massive Burmese pythons is well known, but those in two local neighborhoods are happy to see huge snakes lurking in their midst.
Long, undulating “snakes” made of a large, painted rock for a head and smaller painted rocks for the body are delighting those who pass by a home on Pittsburgh Street in Zelienople as well as the EDCO Park swimming pool in Evans City.
Sandy Armstrong said she and her longtime friend, Jodi Correll, of Harmony, saw the idea of a rock snake on Facebook in June, and decided to create one.
They bought some acrylic paints and invited family, friends and neighbor children to paint rocks for the project, which they dubbed “Dwayne the Rock Snake.”
Correll also came up with Rocky Balboa, Rock Hudson and Chris Rock Snake, but the duo decided young people would connect most with wrestler and actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
Armstrong’s grandchildren from Cairo, Egypt contributed to Dwayne’s creation when they visited.
“That’s a long way to come to paint a rock,” Correll said.
Remy Armstrong, 7, was visiting his grandma from Seattle on Thursday and appreciates her efforts in starting and maintaining the snake.
“She can do anything,” Remy said.
Dwayne started out as a head and 10 colorful rocks, which Armstrong and Correll posted on their Facebook pages as well as the Zelienople, Harmony Area Community Forum on Facebook.
“I put a new picture every now and then, and suddenly, there’s a new influx of rocks,” Armstrong said of Dwayne, who is now 142 rocks long.
Some rocks appear to have been painted by professionals while others were likely decorated by children. Some have uplifting messages like “Smile when it gets rocky,” “Be unapologetically you!” and “You are loved.”
Armstrong picks all the rocks up and puts them in a bucket each week when she cuts her grass, then reassembles Dwayne when she’s done.
“It’s taking me longer and longer,” she said.
Carole Stauffer, of Jackson Township, takes her morning stroll through Stauffer’s tidy Pittsburgh Street neighborhood.
She was delighted to see Dwayne in his undulating position on Armstrong’s lawn.
“I think it’s the best thing since sliced bread,” Stauffer said. “It shows the creativity of the children and the love they have for others.”
Armstrong and Correll think Seneca Valley School District art teachers may create class projects to paint stones to add to Dwayne, or kids going to the school bus this fall will be inspired to paint a rock to add.
Armstrong said if she runs out of room on her double lot, she will approach her neighbor about hosting Dwayne too.
“She has a double lot too,” she said.
Armstrong said she will leave Dwayne out for people to enjoy until the snow flies, when she will allow his artists to come get their rocks. She will place the rest in her mulched beds near her front porch.
“I did it for the enjoyment of kids placing rocks and people stopping to say ‘What an awesome idea,’” Armstrong said. “It puts a smile on people’s face.”
Another large and colorful reptile can be seen a few miles east of Zelienople, at the swimming pool at EDCO Park in Evans City.
“Splash the Rock Snake” augments the beauty of the pool’s perennial garden on one side of the stairs leading to the bathhouse entrance.
Ronny Royhab, the pool manager’s assistant and aquatics coordinator, said he and other pool officials saw examples of rock snakes on Facebook, and announced an event in a pavilion at EDCO Park to paint kindness messages on rocks.
All paint and other materials were donated, and several children turned out to paint.
“The first day, Splash was 15 feet long,” Royhab said. “Because of the good turnout and all the kids were so happy, we did another (painting event).”
He said the two rock-painting events saw neighborhood kids smiling, laughing and admiring one another’s painted rocks.
“It was great to see all the kids who swim here every day doing something fun together,” Royhab said.
He said many people have painted rocks at home and added them to Splash’s length, which now takes up the entire bottom of the garden on the east side of the concrete stairs.
If more people provide painted rocks, Splash will snake his way to the top of the garden.
If the rock snake craze continues next year, Royhab plans to add another rock snake named “Splish” on the other side of the stairs.
Rose Zippler, 7, of Connoquenessing, checked out Splash before her swimming lesson on Thursday.
“I like it,” Rose said of the snake. “It shows a lot of creativity and people put a lot of hard work into it.”
Her favorite rocks were the triangle-shaped ones painted like watermelon slices, and those featuring the sun.
Royhab said everyone is pleased with the cheerful rock snake near the pool’s entrance.
“We wanted to have something to make people smile,” he said.