Initiative distributes chess sets across Big Rapids

FREE GAME: Isaac Collins (left) and his brother, Shamus, enjoy a free game of chess at Cranker's Restaurant and Brewery. "You never know when you are going to find a cool thing to do in town," Shamus said. (Pioneer photo/Adam Gac)

FREE GAME: Isaac Collins (left) and his brother, Shamus, enjoy a free game of chess at Cranker’s Restaurant and Brewery. “You never know when you are going to find a cool thing to do in town,” Shamus said. (Pioneer photo/Adam Gac)

BIG RAPIDS — Clifton Franklund has a strategy for increasing traffic to downtown Big Rapids, offering free entertainment at a number of local venues.

Franklund, a biology professor at Ferris State University, is the founder of the Big Rapids Chess Initiative. The initiative is a personal mission to get more area residents to frequent downtown businesses, he said. So far, he has provided 10 complete chess sets, including a tournament board to area businesses.

Three of the sets are on the Ferris’ campus at the Big Rock Café, New Quad Café and Leadership Center. The other sets are in businesses throughout the city, including Panera Bread, Biggby Coffee, Cranker’s Restaurant and Brewery, The Raven Brewing and BBQ, Selfie’s, The Old Pioneer Store and Emporium and the Big Rapids Community Library.

“I’ve been distributing them around to places downtown to give people something to do on long winter nights or slow summer days,” he said. “Playing games is a great way to foster a sense of community.”

Supporting Big Rapids’ vibrant downtown growth is important, Franklund said.

“In a lot of small towns, the downtowns died out with the big box stores. We still have businesses making it go down there, and I wanted to support that,” he said.  “I’m hoping it will draw some of the students downtown – our town and gown relationship is strong, but we can always foster it more.”

The boards are located in places where residents can take some time and enjoy one another’s company with a game, Franklund said.

“Chess has a lot of historical significance as a game that you could play at any tavern or café,” he said.

The local taverns that received a board have had mixed results so far, but both Cranker’s and The Raven are excited to participate in the program.

“We’ve had a couple of people come in specifically to play chess,” said Alexis Adaschik, Cranker’s bartender. “It’s kind of cool.”

“I grew up playing chess, it always brought the family together,” said Craig Langer, Raven pit master. “Games bring people together.”

PLAY CHESS HERE: Area businesses participating in the Big Rapids Chess Initiative have a window decal depicting a number of chess pieces. Residents who see one of these stickers outside an establishment can ask staff to borrow a chess board free of charge. (Pioneer photo/Adam Gac)

PLAY CHESS HERE: Area businesses participating in the Big Rapids Chess Initiative have a window decal depicting a number of chess pieces. Residents who see one of these stickers outside an establishment can ask staff to borrow a chess board free of charge. (Pioneer photo/Adam Gac)

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Posted by Adam Gac

Adam is the Pioneer City/County Reporter, covering government in Mecosta County. He can be reached by e-mail at agac@pioneergroup.com or by phone at (231) 592-8347.

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