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Fans flock to catch Pokemon critters in Old Town Spring

September 10, 2016 GMT

Old Town Spring, with its colorful jumble of art galleries, boutiques and wine bars, has a deserved reputation for quaintness. But this weekend it’s gone very 21st century.

Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Old Town Spring is hosting a Pokecon, a gathering of hundreds of Pokemon Go players, both serious and casual. Some events, such as a charity walk, were scheduled. But most attendees, in knots of two or three - families, couples and friends - could be found strolling the narrow streets, cellphones in hand, searching for some of the possible total of 148 Pokemon characters, in hopes of “collecting” them virtually.

The Thomas family of Tomball was out before noon. They learned of the Pokecon from a website. “Hey, we’ve got nothing to do Saturday,” said Lindsey Thomas, who had also come to, and enjoyed, an earlier event in town.

“I like it a lot,” said Gwen Thomas, who is 7, red-headed and decisive. Pokemon Go players belong to one of three loose-knit teams, and Gwen is Team Mystic. Why Mystic? “Because I didn’t know what I was doing,” Gwen says.

Her goal was to walk far enough to hatch some character eggs, the likelihood of which increases with distance walked.

Lindsey and Nicholas, the parents, said they enjoy the exercise, but Kal-El (yes, like Superman), 2, in his stroller, concentrated on his pretzel sticks.

The event is the brainchild of Matthew Myrow, who put on a similar, less formal event six weeks ago in Old Town Spring, and Scott Smith, who owns a T-shirt shop in town and offered to help Myrow with organizing. “We decided to do something more conventional or festival-like,” Smith said.

“A big part was working with the town,” said Myrow, so that merchants and street vendors would understand and embrace the event. Tickets are $10.

Pokemon Go is a world unto itself, with rules and rewards that seem mysterious to non-players. Worldwide, the latest estimate is that 66 million people play the game, which requires players to find Pokemon characters who are geographically specific but visible only on a cellphone. The more people in one place, the more likely it is for rare characters to appear.

Old Town Spring is a target-rich environment, with 19 Pokestops and two gyms where team-oriented “battles” can take place. (No actual fighting is involved.)

The three teams are Instinct, Valor and Mystic. Smith said Instinct tends to attract let-it-be, spiritual types; Mystic the loving, family-oriented players; and Valor the players who are more aggressive and like training.

Around town, street merchants were selling team-oriented clothing and jewelry, along with art, figures and games and face-painting. The Envy wine bar offered Pikachu Punch.

Joshua Killion, from Deer Park, came to try to get his skeptical younger sister, Dakota, interested in the game. ’It’s a great time just to hang around,” he said.

Smith said he likes the way the game unites generations, often parents who played old-school Pokemon - the analog kind - when they were kids and now can enjoy it in a new way with their children.

“It makes two miracles happen,” Smith said. “The first is getting the kids outside. The second is having kids do something with their parents.”