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Evy Nordley Finalist Spotlight: Brainerd, Minn.

While board games are a popular pastime, they suffer from a drawback: the gameplay experience is a decidedly two-dimensional one. The Friends of the Brainerd Public Library turned that on its head last year with a wildly popular CLUE murder mystery event.

Hosted at the Brainerd Public Library (where else?), this first-of-its-kind role playing event brought to life the popular Hasbro game and its stately mansion setting.

The Friends of the Brainerd Public Library are no strangers to experimental programming. In 2014, they won the Evy Nordley Award for “Wine & Words,” an author gala fundraiser. Last year, they were runners-up with “Books, Burgers & Brews,” a truly unique literary dining experience held in Crow Wing County restaurants and pubs.

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However, while these previous initiatives targeted the public at large, invitations to the CLUE Event were restricted to just one special audience: members of area book clubs.

“You may think that creating an exclusive event for book clubs is preaching to the choir, but that is not true,” explained Friends president Sheila DeChantal.”Many book clubs do not utilize their local library – and more so, they do not know the resources that today’s libraries provide.”

In the run-up to the big day, each area book club received a “summons” (delivered in ornate envelopes appropriately marked Confidential). More than 100 book club members answered that call.

Many dressed in period costumes, complementing the Victorian veneer given to Brainerd Public Library for the day. “A local photographer loaned us backdrops, including bookshelves and a study, which really completed the setting,” DeChantal recalled.

The Friends organizers tasked guests with solving a murder by visiting sixteen themed areas within the Library. Just like in the board game CLUE, players used process of elimination to zero in on a murder weapon, the scene of the crime – and its perpetrator.

Going the extra mile, the Friends also secured an event liquor from the City and offered a free beer tasting. Hors d’oeuvres, desserts, and coffee were also donated by area businesses. Each attendee left with a Friends of the Library swap bag containing promo materials about the group and the Library, chocolates, and coupons for local breweries and coffeehouses.

Impressively, thanks to in-kind donations, the Friends were able to put on the CLUE Event with only $200 of their own money.