Thursday, December 18, 2014

Fun is in the cards on bingo night

By CLINTON DICK, Herald Staff Writer | 6/25/2014

It’s all about the fun, Happy Mills said.

Mills, Pomona, was explaining different aspects of bingo to her grandson, Dawson Forbis, 10, Pomona, Tuesday evening at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5901 building, 3599 Old U.S. 59, Ottawa. It was the youngster’s first time playing bingo at the VFW.

It’s all about the fun, Happy Mills said.

Mills, Pomona, was explaining different aspects of bingo to her grandson, Dawson Forbis, 10, Pomona, Tuesday evening at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5901 building, 3599 Old U.S. 59, Ottawa. It was the youngster’s first time playing bingo at the VFW.

“He better win,” Mills said, laughing. “Beginner’s luck.”

Dawson hoped to win some of the cash prizes the VFW offered to bingo winners, he said. But it isn’t just about the money. Mills, who said she always comes to the VFW for bingo, loves the atmosphere and the people.

“Everyone in here is like family,” she said. “You see the same people every week and occasionally you see some people who haven’t been in in a while.”

For Sharon Pridgen, Liberty, Missouri, playing bingo at the Ottawa VFW makes for great family time.

“[I play here] to spend time with my mom and her friends,” Pridgen said. “It’s hometown fun.”

Pridgen’s mother, Claire Blackburn, Richmond, originally is from Boston and said the game has changed some since she played in the Bay State.

“Back when I was younger, they didn’t have all these fancy games,” Blackburn said. “We had the little plastic sliders (on the cards).”

Those “fancy” games are just part of what the VFW Post 5901 offers on its bingo nights 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Paul Kah, organizer of the VFW’s bingo, said the game attracts people of all ages as well as some from outside the county.

“In the state of Kansas there is no age restriction for playing bingo, so there are times that we have children in here with their parents, and I’m talking 7, 8 years old to teenagers and in between, but they are accompanied with adults,” Kah said. “We do get some college kids, we get some younger crowd, we get some older crowd. We get people from Osawatomie, Garnett and Iola, so it’s not just people in Ottawa.

“We have regulars and then we have new people that come in,” he said. “There are people that come into town to visit relatives that play once a year. I’ve had people come in for birthdays.”

While Kansas law does not place an age restriction on playing bingo, sponsoring organizations can establish minimum age restrictions for their players, according to the Kansas Department of Revenue.

The Fraternal Order of Eagles also has cash prizes for its bingo games, Kah said, which take place 7 p.m. Mondays. The VFW plays 15 games a night, including 10 $40 prize payout games, a $75 prize game, a $135 prize game, a $140 prize game and a jackpot $400 prize game with a $200 consolation prize game. If two people get bingo at the same game, the prize is split between them, Kah said.

“What happens is you buy a pack and there is different size packs and in that pack is 12 games, two of the specials and the speedball game is not in the pack,” he said. “You have to buy those separately. Our speedball, which we call real fast is 50 cents a card and it is half of whatever we sell that night.”

Several variations of the traditional bingo game are played, including X-out, covering the outside edges of the card and blackout, or having the numbers on a player’s card called. The jackpot game for the VFW is the last game of the night and is a blackout game, Kah said.

Not all of Ottawa’s bingo scene features big money prizes. Bingo at the Ottawa Senior Center, 130 S. Main St., is geared toward playing for fun and small prizes. The senior center also brings in walk-ins for its game, Patricia Schultz, senior center manager, said.

“There have bee people who have come in that don’t eat here to play bingo when they see it on the activities schedule in the newspaper,” Schultz said. “There are some walk-ins who come in, so you just never know who will show up. I would say generally 40, 50 and older (come in).

“They have some prizes here, but it is mostly just playing for fun,” she said. “Someone might donate something that costs a little more for a blackout prize.”

The senior center typically plays host to bingo two to three times a month, and usually takes a break in the summer until the fall when interest spikes again, Schultz said.

“It’s kind of like anything else,” Schultz said. “At first, yes you’ll have a good interest in it, but as time goes along it kind of dwindles off. That is why I take a break during the summer.”

As for the VFW, Kah said a lot of family and friends come together to play the game, making it a great place to socialize at the appropriate volume.

“Honestly, to me, it is a social event,” Kah said. “A lot of people come with their friends and they like to chit chat in between the games. The thing we ask on that is, if you are going to talk, please do it in a whisper voice so other people can hear the numbers called.”

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