Pokémon Go events bring community together

Joshua Kellogg

FARMINGTON — Nearly 300 people ventured to San Juan College this morning in hopes of capturing rare Pokémon during a Pokémon Go event presented by the college.

San Juan College Enrollment Service Coordinator Abby Calcote, left, leads a campus tour for Pokémon Go players Thursday at San Juan College in Farmington.

The event was one of several that have taken place in the area recently as members of the community come together and bond through the popular mobile phone game.

In Pokémon Go, players use their iOS and Android smartphones to capture Pokémon based on their location using the phone's GPS.

The game has become a smash hit since it was introduced on July 6. It has been downloaded 75 million times and become the fastest game to reach 50 million downloads, according to a USA Today story.

At San Juan College, eager Pokémon hunters visited booths set up by college programs and services to help attendees learn more about what the college offers.

“We hoped that there would be a solid turnout, but we are overwhelmed with the turnout,” college President Toni Pendergrass said. “We’re real excited everyone came to the college for this opportunity."

As people visited each of the booths in the college’s Sun Room, employees stamped a card that could be entered for a prize drawing.

College staff members also offered tours of the 13 Pokéstops located on campus. When players visit a Pokéstop, they can obtain in-game items used to help capture Pokémon. The tour included stops at the Health and Human Performance Center, the college’s clock tower in the Educational Services Center and a sculpture in the Memorial Courtyard.

College spokeswoman Renee Lucero said it has been rare for a place to have so many Pokéstops grouped together, and the staff has seen an increase in people visiting the campus since the game was released.

Paris Chee, left, Elias Largo, Myles Largo and Bradon Jack play Pokémon Go Thursday at San Juan College.

Siblings Christian, Joseph and Samantha Quackenbush were eager to attend the event because they had not played the game at the college and hoped to find new Pokémon they had not captured yet.

“I like being able to go out and just walk around and be with my brothers,” 11-year-old Samantha Quackenbush said. “Just being able to catch Pokémon with each other and be able to bond.”

Playing the game has led Joseph to exercise more, as he said he walks around parts of Farmington, including Berg Park. He also has visited the Salmon Ruins Museum west of Bloomfield. Players can acquire Pokémon eggs that can only be hatched when a player walks a certain distance with the game open.

“I went to Berg Park a few weeks ago, and I met a lot of different people,” 14-year-old Joseph Quackenbush said. “They are really fun people.”

Jack Thompson attempts to catch a Pikachu character on Pokémon Go Thursday at San Juan College.

Jenny Lee Ryan, the program coordinator for the Farmington Public Library, also attended the event. She has helped organize two Pokémon Go events at the library. She said 143 people attended the first event and 475 people attended the second.

“I think it’s just really brought a lot of communities together, and I think Farmington is one of the community that has been brought together like this,” Ryan said.

The library staff is planning another event from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday near the amphitheater in front of the library.

The staff at Orthodontics Inc. hosted a Pokémon Go party Saturday at the Vietnam Veterans Park on North Butler Avenue, according to marketing director Shelly Acosta. She said people from Albuquerque, Rio Rancho and Gallup attended the party.

“It’s a big thing. We just wanted to hold a (Pokémon Go) party and just have fun,” Acosta said.

The game has provided an opportunity for 8-year-old Kattiya Berry to spend more time with her grandmother Delaine Berry. Both attended the San Juan College event. Kattiya and Delaine have been spending their time capturing Pokémon together, with Kattiya helping her grandmother when the game becomes difficult.

“I hand her my phone, and she’ll catch them for me,” Delaine Berry said.

She said she and her granddaughter have been driving around the area, visiting new places and discovering what Pokémon lurk around San Juan County.

“It gives us something to do together that is different,” Delaine Berry said.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.