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Community Engagement at the Balloon Festival

by Dan Todd, Scholastic Instructor 


The Saint Louis Chess Club’s booth was buzzing with visitors in the children’s area, of the 2018 Forest Park Balloon Festival. The oldest and most well-attended FREE Hot-Air Balloon Event in the world.


There were approximately 150,000 visitors at the event and we played over 75 games of chess at our booth Saturday. We had six chess sets on our tables, as well as the lawn set keeping a few more young visitors entertained.


The staff was comprised of scholastic instructors that teach chess in the Saint Louis area schools daily. We taught and played chess to individuals and whole families. After playing at least four children in one family, the grandfather decided to play me. I was so glad he was good and beat me fair and square, so that he could “keep face.” Sometimes losing is for the best.


One child had no tolerance for the rules, she clearly had her own ideas as to what chess was about. I quickly understood the situation and tried my best to play along with her special rules, often making errors in the situation and having to improvise a “fix” that was acceptable to her. She seemed happy when she left and her grateful Mom, thanked me for playing along.


Many club members popped by to say hello and I had two fellow magicians say “Hi” too. It’s nice to know that thousands in Saint Louis have embraced chess and the Chess Club, as this is truly the Chess Capital of the United States of America!


When I would mention the World Chess Hall of Fame, the Chess Club, Kingside Diner, and of course that we have the world’s tallest chess piece, quite a few knew all about us through the media. While others seemed intrigued and said that they would have to pay us a visit. These events allow us to keep the public informed about events and activities including Ladies Night, Hall of Fame exhibits, personalized tutoring, and so much more! We love to tell them “Your first visit is free”.