ELBURN – A sheet of a dozen bingo cards sat sprawled in front of Cindy Halsey at a table at the Elburn Lions Club, and she could choose from a wide array of colored “dabbers” to mark off the numbers as they were called.
More sheets of brightly colored cards sat beneath the current game’s cards, and in between, Halsey searched through pull tabs for winning numbers.
She pointed out a few that were winners. Two friends sat at her table, doing the same. Some set out trinkets for luck. And the room was filled with players, male and female, older and younger – more than 150 on Friday night.
“Everybody likes bingo,” Halsey said. “They have fun here.”
Each Friday, bingo players fill the Lions Club at 500 Filmore St. in Elburn. The games go through May 3, breaking for the warmer months, as the place is booked for various activities. Then, games pick up again in September. Doors open at 5 p.m., and games start at 6:30 p.m. There is food and a cash bar, and full teams of Lions Club volunteers take turns staffing each week.
It was a concept launched six years ago by Halsey’s husband, Chris.
Last week was Joe Kryszak’s night of running the show, so his cook, Gerry Arnold, made his “Sloppy Joe” sandwiches, and there was cheesecake. In addition, Kryszak’s crew was selling cards and attending to the needs of players.
Kryszak recalled the launch of bingo, with crowds of 40 people and one big board displaying numbers.
Now there are three big boards and much bigger crowds – to the point that it has become a destination on Friday nights and the club’s second-biggest draw.
“Outside of Elburn Days, it’s our biggest bread and butter,” Kryszak said. “We’ve worked on it.”
Players are drawn by a full slate of bingo games, as well as a progressive raffle with winnings that can reach thousands of dollars.
The bingo payouts aren’t quite as large, but they can be a couple of hundred dollars.
Cindy Halsey called herself a hardcore player, but Lions Club member Nick Carter said that someone could play an entire night for as little as $1 a game – which on Friday was $11.
Mary Gustafson, whose husband, Ken, is a member, was working in the food service area on Friday. She said she was amazed to see how big the crowds can get. On Friday, the parking lot was full with a decent crowd, but she remembers a crowd so big that the game spilled to the outdoor pavilion.
Chuck Galauner and Dave Pniewski were in the bar area, working and surveying the scene.
Pniewski takes his turn in running a bingo night, and his crew does taco night.
Galauner touted the bingo night experience.
“It’s social,” he said. “People have a good time. They’re laughing and talking. We encourage people to have a good time.”
Bingo is just part of the Lions Club’s full schedule. Gustafson and Carter talked of participating in multiple activities – Elburn Days, the St. Patrick’s dinner, a German dinner and other activities associated with the club’s mission of helping those who are blind and visually impaired.
Also, there is the maintaining of Lions Park. In Elburn, the Lions Club is huge, and Gustafson said that helps.
There’s always something to do.
“It’s nice when you’ve got a large club,” she said. “It keeps things from getting boring.”
• Al Lagattolla is the news editor of the Kane County Chronicle. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.