Pitt Academy Bingo at the Sunshine

bingo7Last Saturday night the Sunshine Bingo Center was filled with people of different ages, all gathered for a $10 investment in a long night playing that classic game of chance.

Located at 5712 Outer Loop –close to its intersection with Sheperdsville Road, the big hall is easy to spot and has plenty of parking. It was a warm night and upon our entrance, my girlfriend and I felt that instant gratification of air conditioning you normally notice in the summertime. Maybe it was only noticeable for two people who refuse to turn on their AC until June.

Walking in, we could smell the popcorn, nachos and soft pretzels in the air while those rattling numbered balls dominated the room’s white noise broken every minute by the calling of a new number through a man’s deep voice. A little over two hundred people attentively marked numbers, while carrying on soft-spoken conversations.

Once we were seated with large sheets and daubers in hand, we found ourselves involved in the prospect of achieving an arrangement of dots on a page, which can win you anything between $75 to over a $1,000. Payouts depend on the type of game and the number of gamers in the hall. This is what we were doing on a Saturday night – and yet, it’s what we needed. We’d each had a long busy day and this was a very calm and stress-free environment.

bingo3The night is arranged with separate rounds where the game is played differently. It starts with Early Birds, Regular Bingo, Round Robin, followed by a fifteen-minute intermission and then a series of late games.

Bingo goes back centuries, but the version of it, which we know today in the US, only found its standard form back in the 1920s. Some people don’t regard the game as challenging, but to me, it is. I’m not very good at decoding. When I stare at a sheet of numbers, trying to detect combinations while keeping up with announcements, I can get a little lost. There’s always the help of that old light-up board and TV monitors showing the pending number. It’s a game of paperwork.

From what I learned, there’s a lot of paperwork involved in simply setting up a bingo game, with the laws in place regarding games with cash prizes. Among other rules, no one under the age of eighteen can participate in playing, but kids are welcome to be present in the hall under supervision.

bingo5“Each hall has different sponsors for different nights. So the hall doesn’t run the Bingo. The hall runs the concession,” says Mike Walls, who with his wife Willa, chair the Bingo for Pitt Academy – a school for kids with learning and communication disabilities. By law, each charity group gets up to two nights a week. Pitt Academy hosts Bingo at the Sunshine at 7:30pm on Thursdays and Saturdays. They bring in players from all over.

“Some people come from Indiana,” says Willa Walls. “A lot of people come from Spencer County, Bullitt County, Oldham County – they do come from all over. But we also have regulars who have been coming to our Bingo for twenty years.” Turnouts vary, depending on the season, according to Mike and Willa. Summer can be slow due to all the sporting events and activities in people’s schedules.

Mike Hoffman, the guy who calls out the numbers, has been dedicated to the event for fifteen years. “My son went to Pitt Academy,” says Hoffman. “So that’s what got me started and … the guy that chaired it for over twenty-five years – he came here every Friday. It’s unbelievable the time he gave up. Of course his son was also there (the school).”

Bingo nights are a tremendous contribution to the school to help keep tuition rates at a reasonable level. The Pitt Academy is also preparing for a move to a new location on Westport Road. They also take donations at the events.

Like I say, this is not a bad way to spend an evening night, when you want an easy-going atmosphere. Knowing that our cash is going to a noble charity is comforting. Plus, the hall’s concession is cheap with many food items to choose from. Even with late dinner plans ahead, we can never resist a corndog. VT

If interested in supporting Pitt Academy, please visit pitt.com.