BEREA -- If you see someone staring intently at a rock, or bending down to examine a tree stump this weekend in Berea -- don't be alarmed -- they are just geocaching.
For the seventh straight year, the Berea Chamber of Commerce is hosting its annual Geocaching Weekend, which begins this Friday and continues through Sunday.
While the annual meet-and-greet gatherings won't take place this year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Berea Chamber of Commerce President and Geocaching Chairperson Jennifer Napier said attendees of the event will still have plenty of geocaches to discover over the weekend.
"Actually, geocaching is inherently a social-distancing activity to begin with," Napier said of planning the event with COVID-19 precautions in mind. "It's outdoors and people are spaced out. You are supposed to keep your distance from each other as you search for caches."
This year, the chamber has, in-fact, embraced the social-distancing protocols -- using it as this year's theme.
"The souvenir this year has the shape of the state of Kentucky on it and the state has a mask," Napier explained. "It will be an interesting reminder of this time."
The chamber has taken the social distancing a step further this year to ensure all participants are safe by placing the more than 30 new caches in out-of-the-way places in Southern Madison County.
"This year, we are taking people out even farther than they would normally go. We have put a lot of thought and effort on how we could do this as safely as possible for everyone," Napier explained.
The chamber recommends participants stay within their family groups and to keep hand sanitizer and wipes on hand to disinfect their hands and caches throughout the weekend.
"We are also asking our participants to be patient if another group is at a cache; signing the log book. We hope they will keep their distance and allow the family to finish before approaching the cache," Napier said.
Instead of kicking off the event with a meet-and-greet as in year's past, Napier said the chamber will host a online group game on Friday night. On Saturday, the chamber will take to Facebook to welcome attendees.
As in years past, Napier said the weekend will feature numerous new caches to find and all are easily accessible.
"We take great pains to include a huge variety of caches. Some of them are very unique. Berea is well-known for our interesting geocaches. Some will require you to answer trivia questions to open up the caches, others have puzzles you might need to solve, and some might require you to do things like, take a gallon of water and pour it down a pipe to make the cache float up so you can grab it. We try very hard to make sure all of our caches are mobility-friendly, so even if someone has mobility issues they will still be able to participate and find the caches," Napier explained.
While the weekend will feature approximately 35 never-before-placed caches, Napier added attendees can work at their own pace and search for the more than 140 caches located in Berea.
"We have a brand new geocache type that we are really excited for visitors to try. We were honored with having the opportunity to have an Adventure Lab cache -- which just launched last year... It's situated around Berea College and a really fun way to learn about the area," Napier said.
There will also be a nighttime geocaching event which will require participants to find caches using flashlights and black lights.
The chamber has almost 80 preorders for the event's annual t-shirts, but Napier said she hopes families and visitors will take some time this weekend to get outside and enjoy the free activity together.
"We are just so thankful that we could continue the event this year. The Chamber has been hit hard by the pandemic and we needed $2,500 to renew the GeoTour and we had many local businesses step up and even our own geocachers donate to keep the GeoTour going," Napier said.
Participants just need to create a free account on Geocaching.com and download the app to view the GeoTour caches to get started.
More information can be found on the Berea Chamber Annual Geocaching Weekend Facebook page or the chamber's website at bereachamber.com.
"We hope everyone will join us this weekend for a social-distancing scavenger hunt," Napier said. "It's a great opportunity for families to get outside, solve some puzzles and enjoy our lovely town."