WARREN - Chess is Life member Michael Witt shared his insight and strategies with other youths Saturday afternoon in downtown Warren.
"Chess is more than just a game. It's about life strategy and getting through life without laying down the king," said Witt, 13.
The community was introduced to the first Saturdays on the Square, a free event presented by Main Street Warren that features chess lessons by Chess is Life, art lessons by the Trumbull Art Gallery and bocce and cornhole games by the Trumbull County YMCA. The event will take place Saturdays through Aug. 31 at Courthouse Square.
Greg Bartholomew, 4th Ward councilman and owner of All American Comics and Cards, said there were between 50 and 75 people attending the first event by early afternoon - more than he expected.
"It's been wonderful. The mayor stopped by - he was flabbergasted," he said.
Bartholomew, one of the event sponsors, was present for the initial meeting and helped to suggest the best time to hold the downtown event.
Kaila DeChristofaro, 15, makes a move on the large chess board during the first Saturdays on the Square in downtown Warren. The event, which also features free art lessons, bocce and cornhole, began this weekend and will run each Saturday through August.
Tribune Chronicle photo / Bonnie L. Hazen
"It's good community fun. We've got some free chess lessons, free outdoor chess games, free art lessons, you can come down and play some cornhole, some bocce. The bocce court is only used during the Italian Fest four days a year, might as well utilize it," he said.
Chess is Life was on hand with a larger-than-life chess board for people to play, and members and instructors were on hand to instruct, compete and provide some friendly advice.
"It has been a really big hit today. It's really amazing," said co-founder and instructor Jeffrey L. Butts.
Art in the Park schedule
Saturdays through Aug. 31
Ages 4 to 12 (1 to 2 p.m.)
July 13 - Recycled art (bring 16-ounce bottles)
July 20 - Watercolor painting
July 27 - Puppet-making; puppet show to follow
Aug. 3 - Chalk on the Walk (pop art)
Aug. 17 - Tempera painting
Aug. 24 - Puppet-making
Aug. 31 -Family projects; personalized yard art (stepping stones, birdhouses, etc.)
Teens 13 or older (2 to 3 p.m.)
July 13 - Recycled art (bring old chair)
July 20 - Watercolor painting
July 27 - Henna tattoo design
Aug. 3 - Pop art portraits
Aug. 17 - Watercolor painting
Aug. 24 - Recycled art (bring old magazines)
He said the group started teaching at Willard and Jefferson in the after-school programs and now is working with Jefferson and Lincoln students in the Inspiring Minds summer program.
"We're just trying to get the kids off of the controllers, off of the video games, and into some critical thinking. That's what it's all about," he said.
Bartholomew, who used to be an avid chess player, said he hasn't touched the game in years. But that didn't stop him from calling out some helpful moves to players.
"I haven't played since '78. I used to play chess a lot; then there's a little something called Atari that came out. I haven't played since," he said. "I don't play Atari any more, either."
Kaila DeChristofaro was trying out the large chess board, but ended up losing a game to assistant instructor Ed Havaich.
"I do like chess. It's really fun. I like thinking and I like strategy games," said DeChristofaro, 15, who learned how to play the game about a year ago when she joined Chess is Life.
Meanwhile, Uriah Williams, 12, and Gavin Franks, 8, were busy playing a game of their own.
"It was kinda like a draw," Williams said afterward as the two made their way to a game of Frisbee.
Witt continued to instruct new players joining the table, revealing some of his favorite moves.
"My famous strategy is called the Engineer's Defense. It's more passive and it works because it sets up a strong defense and gets you good offense opportunities. It's something I invented on my own (last year). I've been working on it ever since," he said of his combination of about nine moves.
Earlier in the day, Warren resident and business owner Paul Clouser gave away about 100 hot dogs that he cooked on a real fire truck that he outfitted with a grill.
"The kids have loved that," said Pat Galgozy, executive director of Trumbull Art Gallery.
TAG will offer different free art classes each week for children ages 4 to 12 and teens ages 13 or older. Adults are invited for Happy Hour Painting at a cost of $25, which includes supplies, instructions and two drink tokens and will incorporate downtown bars and restaurants.
"We're going to expand on the whole concept. It's all going to be a real nice fit for downtown Warren. I think more and more people want something to do," Galgozy said. "I hope next time we can have music."
Bartholomew said Saturday's event likely would have drawn twice the amount of people if there had been a River Rock at the Amp concert scheduled.
"I think people are starting to realize that the downtown area is really beautiful and it's a great place to go. It's gotta be the best park in Warren," Clouser said.
"It's family-oriented, it's young kids with adults; it's diversity with the classes and events. I know the people will be back. They had a wonderful time. And it's free," Galgozy said.