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Catching ‘Em All – Pokemon Go Event Draws Nearly A Thousand People In Des Moines

Catching ‘Em All – Pokemon Go Event Draws Nearly A Thousand People In Des Moines

The hot summer weather did nothing to deter hundreds of Pokemon Go fans from congregating at the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park in Des Moines, Iowa, for Pokemon Go – Iowa’s first public event.

Close to one thousand Pokemon Go enthusiasts swarmed the grounds to enjoy the weather, and socialize while playing the mobile AR sensation.

Although the sculpture garden has been a popular virtual hunting spot for players ever since the game’s release two weeks ago, this is the first time an event has been organized for people to gather at a specific time.

Pokemon Go – Iowa’s Miguel Baires, Jesse Thilavong, and a number of other organizers were on hand to engage players in different contests, pass out prizes, and help distribute refreshments to help people beat the summer heat.

It was quite an amazing spectacle to see such an immense gathering of people in one spot, actively playing a game.


At times, shrieks of excitement would rise from the crowd as a rare Pokemon was discovered, which created a herding effect as various groups converged on one location. At one point, rumors of a Pokemon popping up at a nearby gas station sent waves of people running out of the park area and across a busy street.

Despite the large number of people assembled, the crowd did a fantastic job of remaining respectful of their environment. Officials from the Des Moines Art Center, which runs the Sculpture Garden, were on hand to oversee the proceedings, as well as hand out free treats to the Pokemon Masters.

Janet Wheadon, the HR manager for the Art Center, told NerdBacon that they were “very excited” about the increase in traffic to the park due to Pokemon Go. “We’re always happy when people come out and utilize the park.

With the sizable park grounds filled with the Pokemon faithful, I decided to search high and low for at least one person who had just happened upon the park and found themselves in the midst of Pokemon Go mania. Or maybe that one couple, out for a romantic afternoon stroll, oblivious to the throngs assembled for Pokemon Go.

Joy and Clayton Lindquist watch their boys enjoy Pokemon Go

Joy and Clayton Lindquist watch their boys enjoy Pokemon Go.

About the closest I could find were Joy and Clayton Lindquist, two parents who had brought their five sons to the park for what they thought would be a quick, five minute stop at the park. But after seeing the extensive nature of the event, had decided to retire underneath a shady spot to take in the spectacle and let their boys enjoy the fun for a while.

The Lindquists told me that what they were seeing was a genuine “phenomenon” and that they couldn’t remember seeing anything quite like this sudden Pokemon Go obsession.  They also said that they thought the current popularity of Pokemon Go would begin subsiding once the school year began, and kids were forced to keep their cell phones turned off during class time.

One of the most surprising aspects of Pokemon Go’s meteoric rise is the diversity of age groups that are playing the game. There are plenty of twenty-somethings, spurned on perhaps by nostalgia for Pokemon‘s original wave of popularity in 1998, actively trying to catch them all. There are plenty of teens, always on their phones anyway, now fueled by a hot new trend. And of course, there’s the kids. A whole new generation of Pokemon fans who are just learning about the joys of collecting the lovable monsters.

One of those new fans was Tristan Jensen, who was at the Sculpture Garden with his parents, Matt and Joellen. The family traveled from a small town, 24 miles north of Des Moines to take part in the event.

Matt Jensen was hot on the trail of a number of Pokemon

Matt Jensen was hot on the trail of a number of Pokemon.

When asked what his favorite part about Pokemon Go was, Tristan told me, “I like that you can catch a Pikachu.” Although when pressed further, the young Pokemon trainer admitted that he had yet to find one, however, he was excited about his recent capture of a Squirtle. Tristan seemed quite confident that he would capture one of the elusive Pokemon icon’s by day’s end.

Perhaps the greatest testament to the impact Pokemon Go is having, and the sense of community and camaraderie it has fostered, came when a parent, Laith Preston, stopped to thank Miguel for taking the time to organize the event.

Baires remained cool, but internally overwhelmed at the outpouring of support for the event that he created. “Never in my wildest dreams” he stated “did I think it would grow to this magnitude.”


All-in-all, it couldn’t have been a more successful inaugural event for Pokemon Go – Iowa. Baires says that he hopes to organize subsequent Pokemon Go events throughout the city.



Written by The Watchman

The Watchman

The Watchman is a journeyman gamer who has seen and played a good chunk of gaming history.
He’s also an actor, a reporter, a pro wrestling connoisseur, and some say he’s a cat whisperer.
If you have any questions or just want to drop me a line, hit me up at
Or follow me on Twitter @DavetheWatchman
You can also game with me!
Look me up on Xbox Live @ DJKhadoken
Or on PlayStation Network @ Eaglevision_dl


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