“Gotta Catch Them All” : Locals head outdoors to play “Pokémon Go”

Published 9:10 am Monday, July 18, 2016

Star Photo/Bryce Phillips  Kenny Albert, left, and Courtney Harmon of Hampton take a break after playing "Pokemon Go" inside the Sycamore Shoals State Park Friday.

Star Photo/Bryce Phillips
Kenny Albert, left, and Courtney Harmon of Hampton take a break after playing “Pokemon Go” inside the Sycamore Shoals State Park Friday.

Like around the nation, “Pokemon Go”, a mobile phone game, is taking Elizabethton by storm.
The game, which was released by developer Niantic and publisher The Pokémon Company on July 6, uses GPS and augmented reality to allow players to hunt down and capture Pokémon, which are virtual creatures that are displayed in the real world on a user’s phone.
“Pokémon Go” has locals hitting the streets and trails searching for the elusive creatures. Friday evening, Guinevere Lovejoy and her friend Julie Pressley were in downtown Elizabethotn at the Covered Bridge Park, a Pokémon Go hotspot, where the two were trying their luck at catching some Pokémon.
Lovejoy and Pressley recently started playing the game and have fell in love with it.
“I started playing Monday,” said Lovejoy. “I am a hairdresser and some of my clients were talking about it, so I figured I would give it a shot. I played it on Gameboy, when I was ten.”
“We started reading a bunch of articles about how the game gets people outside, and it has been great,” Lovejoy continued.
Friday evening was the second time this week that Lovejoy and Pressley went out and played the game. The two said that normally they would be at home watching TV instead of spending time outdoors. Pressley mentioned that one of her favorite things about the game is meeting new people.
“I just think it is awesome,” she said. “I have already met 15 different people just today.”
“It is a lot of fun to play downtown,” Pressley added. “It has been great walking around and seeing the historical markers. We have learned some new things playing the game.”
While Lovejoy and Pressley were hunting near the Covered Bridge Stage, Dylan Appleton and his friends, Garrett Odom and J.C. Cocklin, were on the other side of the Covered Bridge looking for some of the virtual monsters. Odom and his friends said that they have spent roughly five to six hours a day playing the game.
“I think it is awesome to get outside,” Appleton said. “It is a good motivator to get people outside.”
“I think it is mainly for ages 16 years and up, because you do need to be able to drive around and get to different places,” Appleton added.
One of the things that makes downtown Elizabethton a great place to play is the fact that many Pokéstops are located in a close proximity in the downtown area. Pokéstop are locations in the game that a player must visit to get items to help them play the game. Many Pokéstops are historical places, such as the Covered Bridge. In Downtown Elizabethton alone there are seven Pokéstops.
This week, across Tennessee, state parks have been seeing an increase of visitors as players flock to the outdoors to play the game. Sycamore Shoals State Park in Elizabethton is no exception, either, according to Park Manager Jennifer Bauer. Baur said her and her staff have noticed some Pokémon trainers making their way around the park.
“I did not know what it was until Monday of this week,” Bauer said. “We started seeing groups of people wandering around the park looking at their phones. We thought, ‘What in the world are they doing?’”
Bauer said she loves seeing people visiting the park, and the only concern she has is that some people have been staying on park ground after hours playing the game.
“Our only concern is that our park closes at dark and we have had people all over the park at all hours of night in places they don’t need to be,” Bauer said. “So we would just like folks to know that once dark falls they probably shouldn’t be walking around the park playing ‘Pokémon Go’”

However, Bauer said she would like to invite “Pokémon Go” players to come out and enjoy the park.

“We are open from dawn to dusk,” she said. “I just think it is wonderful when folks come out and enjoy the park. It is great seeing people getting out and walking. They may even pick up on some of the local history while they are here.”

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Friday, Hampton’s Kenny Albert and Courtney Harmon were at Sycamore Shoals, where there are roughly seven Pokéstops, playing the game. The two said that ever since the game came out they have been heading outside to play.

“I have been out here pretty much everyday around the area,” Albert said. “Coming out to the park has become almost an everyday thing.”

As the popularity of the game increases, news stories have made their way around the internet about people getting injured due to playing the game. This week, two men in San Diego fell off a cliff while looking at their phones and searching for Pokémon. Both men were taken to the hospital with moderate injuries.

Here in Elizabethton, Police Department Major Shannon Peters said that they have not had any problems with the game that he is aware of.