“The Rock” at Gainesville High School has been painted during football seasons, whether there were wins or losses. It has been painted for anniversaries, births and deaths, state championships; and even one national championship when it was painted Clemson orange for likely, one of the only times in history.
And this weekend, Gainesville High School and the Gainesville City School System will celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Rock.
According to a resolution compiled by school board member Sammy Smith, The Rock found by contractors as the West Bypass was under construction connecting Dawsonville Highway to Dixon Drive in the 1960s. It was named The Rock by GHS students and soon after “spirited messages were painted on the smooth surfaces extolling the spirit of the Red Elephants.”
The resolution adds, “The Rock was leased from the US Army Corps of Engineers to the City of Gainesville as part of its master plan to develop and construct linear parks connecting downtown to Lake Lanier.
Mayor John Cromartie, Sr., proclaimed the “Big Red Rock” to become officially the guardianship of the Gainesville High School student body on October 27, 1967, and the City Council conveyed ownership in perpetuity during the 1978-79 school year.
Over the years, The Rock has been painted thousands of times, and “attacked by rivals as it was burned, tarred and feathered, painted in colors other than mighty red and rolled in tissue paper, but majestically withstood all challenges and rivals,” according to the resolution.
To celebrate the silver anniversary, the community is invited at 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 22 to the Rockin’ 50th Paint Party. There will be face painting and balloons and all GCSS Schools will have tables available at the event for painting activities. Free shuttle service will be provided to The Rock from the Gainesville High School parking lot to help ease parking and congestion. Everyone is asked to please bring a rock to paint at the event, which will be added to the schools’ rock gardens.
The honorary co-chairmen of the The Rockin’ 50th Paint Party will be Mayor Danny Dunagan and former mayor John Cromartie, Jr.