Clifton Park Elks Lodge Exalted Ruler Bill Tierney has been pleasantly surprised.
Drive-in bingo is a hit.
Taking a cue from the Elks lodge in Gouverneur, N.Y., which held its first drive-in bingo in May, the Clifton Park Elks scheduled its first outdoor bingo event in July. A heat advisory forced cancellation, so the next event was set for 6 p.m. on Aug. 13. A total of 74 cars and 134 players turned out.
Their second drive-in bingo will be held this Sunday — card sales starting at 1 p.m. and games beginning at 2 p.m. and ending at 4:30 p.m.
Tierney said 67 cars were registered as of Wednesday afternoon (“The maximum we can do is 100,” he says) and reservations are required. Email them at [email protected] There are a limited number of “bingo boards” to hold cards, so include that in your reservation.
Guidelines on how to signal “bingo” will be made known before the start of the games. The afternoon will also include raffles and a 50-50 drawing.
Pre-coronavirus, the lodge held bingo games indoors every Thursday night.
But that was then.
“With 50-percent [capacity] rules, we could only have 60 people inside on a safe basis. We would barely be breaking even,” said Tierney. So the idea for drive-in bingo made sense.
“For social distancing we use every other parking space,” Tierney said. “The rules say you stay in your car, unless you need to go to the bathroom,” in which case a mask must be worn.
“It’s an audio-only bingo. We have an FM broadcast system that we use to broadcast to car radios,” said Tierney. A bingo machine that’s programmed for all of the games is used and volunteer attendants assist players who have questions. Some volunteers are equipped with walkie-talkies.
“It takes a good number of volunteers to do this,” said Tierney, noting that a team of about 14 to 18 helpers will be on hand Sunday.
“Bingo funds are basically used to help fund scholarships and veterans activities, so it’s a charitable thing,” he added. He expects to have another game in October and hopefully one in November.
“It worked very well,” said Tierney. “The comments we got back were very good.”
There was one twist to the August bingo event.
“We had a young lady who came up on a three-wheeled bicycle,” recalled Tierney. “We’re wondering, ‘how do we deal with this?’ We were very polite. And she was all right, sitting on that trike all night long.
“Afterwards, she came up to us and wanted to know the best route home — all the way up to Saratoga Springs. And this is at 9 o’clock at night!
“We have a gentleman, Chris Campbell, who is a member, an officer, and a volunteer for a number of things here. He had a truck. He drove her home,” said Tierney.
“I wrote in our newsletter that this is what we stand for — to help people. It makes you proud to be an Elk.”