Amid the controlled chaos of trivia questions and music blasted throughout a spacious room in the back of Krannert Student Center at Berry College on Friday, Chess Club whiz Lewis Byrne plays it cool as he takes on two opponents simultaneously.
“The online chess community has certainly gained in interest lately,” Lewis, a kindergarten teacher at Berry’s Elementary School, said as he made another move on one of two table-top chess boards. “Not as much as during the Bobby Fisher era, but still growing, I think.”
Berry’s Chess Club table was one of 72 such displays from the college’s wide array of clubs, organizations and departments that attempted to attract more than 400 students during the annual event at the start of fall semester.
Another gaming group, of sorts, around the corner from Byrne’s table was the “e sports interest group.” Since they are still in their preliminary stage and not quite yet an official club, they were encouraged by the more than 30 students who had stopped by their table to sign up to play four different online games, such as League of Legends or the digital card game known as Hearthstone.
Heading up the group was Davis Murphy, who said Berry actually sponsored his trip to attend an e sports event elsewhere to explore offering such competitions to Berry students.
“They figured it’s as good a time as ever to get something like this started here,” Murphy said as he encouraged a female player to sign up for one of the games.
Just about every table had some sort of candy or raffle to attract students and the Young Democrats’ booth was no exception. There — right next to the College Republicans’ table — interested students who signed up for more information would have a chance to win a small President Obama bobblehead.
Sarah Pierce, president of the Young Democrats and the Women & Gender Studies group, said she agreed with College Republicans Chairman Benjamin D. Walker that the two opposing groups do have a friendly working relationship on the campus.
“We get together and rant and have a lot of fun,” Pierce, a senior, said. “My goal now is to leave these clubs in good hands to keep our messages on point, you know?”
Across the aisle was the Vegetarian and Vegan Society booth with a “draw your favorite animal” sketch pad on the table and an informational video playing on a laptop.
Club officer Anna Johnson said she’s encouraged by the increase in interest in plant-based diets and general awareness occurring with global events such as the burning of rain forests by cattle ranchers.
“We find some students who used to be vegetarians who have slipped and we’re just here to support them,” Johnson said.
On the other side of the room near where students were winning T-shirts for correctly answering Berry trivia questions, the Forensics Union’s display includes the declaration “NOT THE DEAD BODIES” to clear up confusion as the American Chemical Society adds dry ice to large beakers of colored water to lure students leaning toward the sciences.
And over at the Pre-Vet table, freshman Tyler Gordon was jotting down his contact information because he says he’s finally realized he wants to become a veterinarian.
“This fair has been great because I also was able to talk to the recreation people about doing intramural tennis,” Gordon said as he headed out the door clutching a free drink koozie and other Involvement Fair prizes.