By Laura Wiersema ’18
Bingo Night may be overdue for an image update. An activity often associated with nursing homes and church socials has found new life on the Simpson College campus.
Once a month, nearly a fourth of the student body plays bingo for their chance to win anything from juice pouches to sound systems.
First-year students enjoyed their first night of bingo the weekend before classes began. The first official bingo night for all students will be Sept. 29.
To understand the appeal, let’s return to one of the final bingo nights of the spring semester.
As the evening begins, students trickle into Hubbell Hall in the Kent Campus Center, grabbing their bingo cards and colored dabbers. Groups stake their claims at the tables set up, getting the best seats they can with the easiest access to the judge’s table.
They take a pass of the tables of prizes, stacked on top of each other, waiting to be won: blankets, coloring books, movies, snacks, water bottles. But it all looks like treasure to college students. Winning means they will have to spend less of their own money during their next Walmart run.
By 9:00 p.m., every chair is filled and several more students are sitting on the floor, on ledges or against the wall. This year, the student-run Campus Activities Board moved bingo from the Principal Black Box Theatre to Hubbell Hall to accommodate more students, but somehow the room manages to be just as full as when it was in the cozier venue.
When Simpson College’s Campus Activities Board started bingo in the late 1990s, they never expected to get such a big response. Rich Ramos, associate dean of students and CAB’s advisor, said only about 80 people attended the first bingo night.
But over the years, the popularity grew. What’s not to love about winning free stuff on a Friday night?
Junior Zoe Seiler explained the economics behind it: “The more prizes they have, the more people can win, so the more people are going to go.”
Back to Bingo Night. Before you know it, the room is erupting in song together. Nothing like some “High School Musical” tunes like “Breaking Free” to unite a crowd of college students. Between rounds, while winners pick their prizes, CAB plays music on an app that lets students pick songs and vote on which one gets played next.
If you’re unlucky enough to seemingly never win anything, never fear. The third round of bingo is called Loser’s Bingo. Anyone who has already won a prize that night isn’t allowed to play. This one’s for you, you unfortunate souls.
“It’s nice bonding with friends, even when you don’t win,” Seiler said.
Finally, the last round of bingo is always blackout. You have to cover all the numbers first to win the grand prizes, that’s what makes them grand. Tonight’s top prizes: a TV with a sound bar and a GoPro with various accessories.
Number by number, bingo cards fill with dabber ink until they appear to be bleeding. As people get closer and closer to getting blackout, they inch closer and closer to the check table. They anxiously await those last couple numbers, ready to pounce once they do.
“It’s a lot of fun because everybody gets so into it and gets so competitive and excited about all the prizes,” Seiler said.
It may be competitive, but there’s never hard feelings over who wins.
“Everyone always talks about this Simpson community and how everybody knows each other and everybody’s friends, and I think bingo is just kind of a good example of that,” Seiler said.