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Friends, fun and board games are the perfect combination

Board and cards games, along with puzzles and video games, have seen a bit of resurgence in popularity over the last several years as people looked for new ways to socialize and have fun before and during the pandemic. Even as the area starts to go back to some sort of normalcy, games and connected events continue to be popular at places such as the Willmar Community Center, Willmar Public Library and even neighborhood coffee shops.

Karen Klinghagen rolls her dice during a game of Farkle at the Willmar Community Center Feb. 4, 2022.
Board games are bringing people together at various locations in Willmar. From the Willmar Community Center and Public Library to coffee shops such as the Goodness, games are being a popular way to socialize and have fun. Karen Klinghagen rolls her dice during a game of Farkle at the Willmar Community Center on Feb. 4, 2022.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune
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WILLMAR, Minn. — They come in different-sized boxes, filled with cards, pieces, boards, dice and spinners. Some have been around for hundreds of years in one form or another, while others have only been on the shelves for a few seasons. Games, whether they are of the card, board or even video persuasion, continue to be a favorite pastime that has dated as far back as ancient Egypt.

That enjoyment continues to this day and as locally as Willmar. As people reach out for more ways to interact or find something fun to do on a cold winter's day cuddled up with friends and family, games are becoming a growing part of community recreation.

"Board games are fun," said Tim Davis, event coordinator at the Willmar Community Center . "There are a lot of avenues you can accomplish with board games."

Britta Diem Tim Davis Willmar Community Center Feb. 11, 2022
Willmar Community Center director Britta Diem and event coordinator Tim Davis have been growing the center's collection of games over the last several months. Game events have been a popular draw for people of all ages.
Shelby Lindrud / West Central Tribune

Over the past year, the board game collection at the Willmar Community Center has started to grow and diversify. Intermingled with the classics such as Monopoly and Clue are new favorites like Sheriff of Nottingham and Ticket to Ride. A grant from UCare helped provide new options for the community to play.

"It specifically had to go toward games," said Britta Diem, community center director. "With the pandemic and everything, they had an opportunity to create some connectivity with people in safer ways."

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Ray Mitchell, from left, Karen Klinghagen and Marvin Kinzler gather for a game of Farkle at the Willmar Community Center Feb. 4, 2022.
Ray Mitchell, from left, Karen Klinghagen and Marvin Kinzler gather for a game of Farkle at the Willmar Community Center on Feb. 4, 2022.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

Puzzles are also a growing amusement at the community center. It now has over 300 puzzles in its puzzle exchange program. People can donate puzzles they've completed and take a new one to enjoy.

The community center offers a variety of game programming and events. Every Friday the center has Farkle Fridays, and each month there is a themed board game event on a Saturday. Last October, the focus was on spooky games, while on Feb. 26 it will be a dive into the classics.

A chess club was started in July; there are video game tournaments; and there is also always the multitude of card games that take place nearly every day.

"I just really like board games and I like the idea of a regular setting to do it," Davis said.

At the Willmar Public Library , a teen game club provides an opportunity for the community's teens to play both board and video games each month. Meeting on the second Friday of each month, the library provides a variety of board games plus an Xbox video game console.

"This is what they want to do," said Samantha Lilienthal, teen programming librarian at the Willmar Public Library. "They just want to play games."

Teen Programming Librarian Samantha Lilienthal, at right, sets up the board for Wits and Wagers during a Teen Gaming Club gathering at the Willmar Public Library Friday, Feb. 11, 2022.
Teen Programming Librarian Samantha Lilienthal, at right, sets up the board for Wits and Wagers during a Teen Gaming Club gathering at the Willmar Public Library on Friday, Feb. 11, 2022.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

An adult game club is set to start soon and perhaps one day a club for younger children. The library also offers games for check-out or to just play at the library. In fact, the library offers a wide range of items community members can check out, including lawn games and even exercise equipment.

"We want to be a resource for the community, " Lilienthal said. "It doesn't have to be just books and knowledge."

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Anywhere people come together to meet up can be the perfect place for a board game. Take the Goodness Coffee Shop in downtown Willmar, which has a bookshelf of games ready to be played while people enjoy their coffees and pastries.

"It is good to play a game, a different way to spend time," said Candace Aaker, who owns the Goodness with her husband, Nick.

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The Goodness owner Candace Aaker said the games provide not only fun, but a good conversation starter. The downtown coffee shop keeps a bookshelf full of options for its patrons.
Shelby Lindrud / West Central Tribune

Games can be a great conversation icebreaker, especially if you don't know the people you are playing with well.

"It is a fun thing, to see people use those tools to get a conversation started," Aaker said.

Games can also be a social avenue for people who might spend a lot of their day alone, whether because of their job or because they live alone. The game events at the community center are a casual environment that tries to take awkwardness out of meeting new people.

"This is an opportunity for those people who don't have those groups of people to play games with," Diem said. "They can come here and have that experience of a game night."

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Chess club founder Andrew Stadem, at right, smiles while playing Terry Thompson in a game of chess at the Willmar Community Center on Monday, Feb. 7, 2022.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

The generations can come together over a board or card game. At the community center, it isn't odd to see a school-aged child learning a card game from a senior citizen. And the chess club has a wide range of age groups taking part.

"You have a grandpa basically teaching a 12-year-old how to play Whist. That has been cool to see," Diem said. "It has been very cool to see the different avenues and connectivity between the different generations coming together."

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Angel Rios, 15, places a bet while playing Wits and Wagers during a Teen Gaming Club gathering at the Willmar Public Library Friday, Feb. 11, 2022.
Angel Rios, 15, places a bet while playing Wits and Wagers during a Teen Gaming Club gathering at the Willmar Public Library on Friday, Feb. 11, 2022.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

While the pandemic and the connected lockdowns might have been the catalyst for the renewed popularity in board games, puzzles and other similar activities, even as the world slowly goes back to some normalcy, gaming events continue to be popular. And the reasons for that, according to one young gamer from the Teen Game Club, are rather simple.

"I like meeting people and having fun," said Avery Cox, 16. "That is the main reason."

Willmar Community Center puzzle wall.JPG
The Willmar Community Center's puzzle exchange program now boasts over 300 puzzles, all available for people to borrow and enjoy.
Shelby Lindrud / West Central Tribune
Game shelf and Goodness Coffee shop.JPG
A small bookshelf at the Goodness Coffee Shop in downtown Willmar is filled with different board games, available for people to play while enjoying their coffees and other treats.
Shelby Lindrud / West Central Tribune

Related Topics: WILLMARMINNESOTAGAMES
Shelby Lindrud is a reporter with the West Central Tribune of Willmar. Her focus areas are arts and entertainment, agriculture, features writing and the Kandiyohi County Board.

She can be reached via email slindrud@wctrib.com or direct 320-214-4373.


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