As Minnesotans across the state remain home while working and schooling — or are out of work altogether — during the COVID-19 pandemic, the hunger for new forms of entertainment is ever growing.

Musicians, artists, business owners and many others are busy online producing content for those stuck at home to help pass the time. One such person is Pine River resident John Carlson, who is doing his part to keep the lakes area entertained through online trivia.

When the world isn’t in a global pandemic, Carlson hosts weekly Trivia Mafia at Roundhouse Brewery in Brainerd and 14 Lakes Brewery in Crosslake. When the establishments closed and trivia subsequently took a hiatus, Carlson said some of his regulars asked if there was any way he could keep it going virtually.

“And I was like, ‘That’s a brilliant idea,’’ Carlson said during a phone interview Wednesday, March 25.

Carlson hosted what was originally meant to be a one-time trivia event Friday, March 20, through Facebook Live.

“The feedback was phenomenal,” Carlson said, noting he received a lot of gratitude from players. “... I felt like I actually was a part of a community again. I had a blast.”

The activity was so well-received, he decided to make it a twice-weekly event.

“And what else am I going to do on my week nights?” he joked. “I’m not doing anything now.”

Now, anyone with a device connected to the internet and some free time can participate in online trivia with Carlson at 7 p.m. every Wednesday and Friday night from home.

For each event, Carlson will post a live video in the Facebook group BLA Community Trivia Night streams. Those who want to participate should join the group and will be able to access the video when it starts up. The Wednesday night version is shortened to about an hour, with four rounds of five questions, for those who don’t want to get to bed too late. The Friday night version, though, is closer to the full Trivia Mafia experience, running roughly an hour and a half to two hours.

Carlson asks the questions through the video, and participants write down their answers on a piece of paper, keeping track of their own scores when the answers are given out at the end. Those playing along can communicate with Carlson and each other through the comment box on the video.

After all the rounds, participants type their team names and scores in the video’s comment box and the end of the game. Carlson’s wife Macy works in the background to figure out the top teams. Thanks to both donations and personal contributions from the Carlsons, the top teams from the latest Friday night event won prizes, including a ‘90s trivia game and gift cards to local establishments. If anyone is interested in donating prizes, they can reach out to Carlson on Facebook.

Forty-six teams participated in the most recent trivia event, and the video has since garnered more than 150 views.

And for those who aren’t able to play along at 7 p.m., the videos remain on Facebook and can be reviewed at any time.

“Basically I'm there to entertain and be an amusement,” Carlson said. “And now it's more on there for entertainment and to be a diversion. And so I don't mind playing the fool if it means people have a good time and can relax for a little bit.”

As a disclaimer, Carlson said he aims to keep the events PG-13 so kids can participate, but as someone who’s used to hosting trivia in bars, an “adult” word or two may slip out.

So far, though, Carlson hasn’t received many complaints.

“I’m honored and touched,” he said of the response he gets to his trivia nights. “There’s no other way to put it. It’s kind of amazing that just by doing something this ridiculously fun and this ridiculously simple, I can make people happy. And right now we all need to smile a whole lot more than we are.”

Other local events

Several area businesses and organizations are offering online activities for community members. Below is a list of some of those offerings found on Facebook.

Story time and reading

The Friends of the Brainerd Public Library host children’s story time on Facebook Live at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. each day Monday-Saturday. Community members and local celebrities read children’s books from their homes. A list of readers and books is available at https://bit.ly/3dwVfsy.

Board president Sheila DeChantal said she wanted to find a way to reach out to the community despite all the library’s reading programs being canceled.

Past videos are also available on the Friends of the Brainerd Public Library Facebook Page.

DeChantal is also encouraging those in the community to participate in the book club initiative started by Gov. Tim Walz, who tweeted a video last weekend urging Minnesotans to share on social media what they’re reading. Walz called the initiative the state’s largest book club.

Cooking tutorials

Prairie Bay’s executive chef will host weekly cooking tutorials via Facebook Live on Thursdays. Pre-packaged meal kits for two adults are $38 and can be ordered online at http://3cheersmn.com/. Packages ordered by Tuesday can be picked up curbside Wednesday at the Baxter restaurant. The chef will go live on Facebook at 5:30 p.m. Thursday with a step-by-step tutorial. The meal for Thursday, April 2, is chicken and mushroom ravioli.

Art projects

The Crossing Arts Alliance will host two Studio Wednesday LIVE art sessions via Facebook Live at 1 p.m. Wednesdays April 1 and 8.

The first session is an exploration of the watercolor medium and offers a lesson in basic color theory and the application of watercolors on specialty cold press watercolor paper.

The second session is drawing for beginners.

Those who don’t have supplies can purchase kits for the sessions for $18 at https://bit.ly/2R0spYi. The kits will be shipped priority mail.

Yoga

Jennifer Smith, of Nisswa Yoga, offers online yoga classes from 9-10 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Zoom conferencing, with the next sessions April 3 and 4. All abilities are welcome.

Those interested can register at https://bit.ly/2xzEblx and should do so by 8 a.m. the day of the session. A code to join the meeting will be emailed to everyone who registered. Those experiencing financial hardship can email jennifer@nisswayoga.com for judgment-free assistance.

Animal livestreams

Several zoos across the country have closed their doors and exhibits but set up cameras and livestreams for animal lovers to enjoy during their quarantines.

The Cincinnati Zoo in Ohio hosts Home Safari Facebook Live events at 3 p.m., featuring different animals each day. So far zoo staffers have focused on animals like flamingos, meerkats, tortoises, snow leopards and the ever-popular Fiona the baby hippo.

All live Facebook videos are still available on the Facebook page after recording.

For aquatic animal lovers, 10 different live cams at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California capture activity of jellyfish, sea turtles, penguins, otters, sharks and other sea creatures. The video feeds are available on the aquarium’s website at https://bit.ly/2UPRlma.

The Kansas City Zoo in Missouri offers an even more specialized virtual visit — 24/7 coverage of the penguin exhibits. All penguins, all the time, available on the zoo’s website at https://bit.ly/2Jpt3Km.

Numerous other zoos, aquariums and animal sanctuaries offer live animal cameras and other educational and entertaining videos. They’re just a Google search away.

Live music online

Music lovers can get their fix of live shows, too, despite various music festivals having recently been canceled across the country.

Country music fans can tune in the Grand Ole Opry’s Facebook page, YouTube account or visit https://bit.ly/2JroIq9 to learn how to tune in via TV or radio to live Saturday night concerts. Saturday, March 28, featured country stars Vince Gill and Amy Grant, along with their daughters. The concert is still available on Facebook.

Websites like www.stageit.com offer virtual concerts with tickets ranging from about $5-$20.

In the last couple weeks, many musicians like John Legend, Chris Martin, Garth Brooks, Pink, Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello have offered free mini-concerts of sorts through Instagram Live and Facebook Live. The artists’ videos are still available for viewing on their social media pages.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa.