Rock stackers compete at festival in Llano this weekend

Hundreds of rock stacks rose along the banks of the Llano River during last year's Llano Earth Arts Fest. Photo courtest Llano Earth Arts Fest

Hundreds of rock stacks rose along the banks of the Llano River during last year’s Llano Earth Arts Fest. Photo courtesy Llano Earth Arts Fest

 

So many rock towers sprouted along the banks of the Llano River during last year’s inaugural Llano Earth Art Fest that for days afterward, school buses drove kids there to take a look at the artwork.

Expect even bigger things at this year’s event, set for March 11-13 at Grenwelge Park in downtown Llano, 70 miles northwest of Austin.

This year's fest is set for March 11-13 in Llano. Photo courtesy Llano Earth Arts Fest

This year’s fest is set for March 11-13 in Llano. Photo courtesy Llano Earth Arts Fest

 

What organizers last year proclaimed the Rockstacking National Championship has morphed into the Rockstacking World Championship in this, its second year. Organizers don’t know of any other rock stacking competitions anywhere on the planet, but they have fielded calls from interested rock stackers as far away as Yemen.

Binky Morgan hatched the idea for the rock-centric fest in 2015, after seeing some beautifully designed rock stacks. With rock stacking as a focus, the event grew into an entire earth art festival. She expected it to draw a few hundred attendees; it attracted 5,000.

“People are digging this,” Morgan said. “It’s taking natural elements and making art out of them.”

The rock stacking competition includes a category for juniors. Photo courtesy Llano Earth Arts Fest

The rock stacking competition includes a category for juniors. Photo courtesy Llano Earth Arts Fest

 

This year’s three-day festival runs from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday through Sunday. Besides rock stacking, activities include live music and workshops on everything from light pollution and primitive fire starting to shamanic practices. Admission is free; entry into the competition costs $5.

Attendees will include three nationally known rock stars – Michael Grab of Colorado, Tim Anderson of Pennsylvania and David Allen of Maine. They’ll demonstrate their skills all weekend long, but the main competition will unfold Saturday, with amateurs, juniors and experts vying for honors in four categories – tallest stack, best rock balancer, best arch maker and most artistic stack.

Llano’s location at the center of the Llano Uplift, a dome-shaped formation of Precambrian rock, primarily granite, makes it perfect for the event, said Rich Houston, who is heading the competition part of the festival.

Festival admission is free. Photo courtesy Llano Earth Arts Fest

Festival admission is free. Photo courtesy Llano Earth Arts Fest

 

“We’ve got no shortage of rocks in Llano,” he said as he took a break from loading rocks into his truck and hauling them to the festival site so rock stackers wouldn’t have to look far for building materials. He also planned to create a giant rock chair to serve as a photo op for festival goers.

Rock stacking doesn’t come without controversy, however.

Weeks after last year’s event, someone toppled the still-standing stacks along the riverbanks, supposedly because they were pagan, Houston said. Otherwise, locals seemed to love it. Some even headed back to the park to restack the tumbled stones.

“I’m a liberal redneck cowboy, and barflies were coming up to me, telling me, ‘Yeah, that thing was great,'” Houston said. “We still get people who come down and stack rocks randomly.”

For more information about the festival, go here.

Rock stackers can compete for honors in tallest stack, best arch, most artistic and best balance. Photo courtesy Llano Earth Arts Fest.

Rock stackers can compete for honors in tallest stack, best arch, most artistic and best balance. Photo courtesy Llano Earth Arts Fest.

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