Sharpsburg bingo now called monthly
Organizers of the St. Juan Diego Parish bingo are betting on their lucky trolls that a limited game schedule will be a winner for the church.
Games will now be hosted once a month, rather than every week.
“We're just not making the money anymore,” said Marie Warrene, who, with a group of five volunteers, ran the weekly bingo for 30 years at the church hall along Ninth Street in Sharpsburg.
“We used to get 250 people. That was nothing,” she said. “Now we're at about 70.”
Warrene consulted with the Rev. Mike Decewicz, pastor at St. Juan Diego, and they agreed that it was time to make a change.
By offering the once-popular event only once a month, the pair is hoping it will be in demand.
“Maybe they'll be wanting to play after they haven't played for a month,” said volunteer Mary Ann Panza, the group's number-caller for 25 years.
The first monthly game will be Oct. 21. Doors open at 12:45 p.m. Early bird games start at 1:45 p.m.
Panza is already getting a good vibe about the change.
“A lot of people are giving a positive response,” she said. “They're happy that it's in the afternoon.”
Warrene said a lot of the regulars are senior citizens who have commented about driving home after the old bingo let out at 10 p.m.
“Especially in the winter, they didn't want to have to drive in the dark and the snow,” Warrene said.
“We're really hoping this works out.”
The new afternoon bingo will come with a monthly theme, the first being “Steeler-Ween,” where players can dress in their black and gold prior to the game against the Cincinnati Bengals that evening.
Warrene tried to avoid competing with Steelers fans by scheduling the remainder of this year's bingos on days when the team doesn't have an afternoon game: November's bingo will be on the 18th, when the Steelers play the Baltimore Ravens at 8:20 p.m.
In December, bingo will be on the 16th, when the Steelers take on the Dallas Cowboys at 4:25 p.m.
The cost to play starts out at $12 for nine cards.
Despite a run with low attendance, Warrene said the church has never cut prizes to compensate.
“We give $75 for each game, $150 on specials and a $1,000 jackpot,” she said.
“There were bad weeks and snow and other things, but we always give it.”
When it began 50 years ago, the bingo was held at the Madonna of Jerusalem Church hall along Main Street. Even after decades, the game was “crowded all the time,” Warrene said.
“That was before casinos,” she said. “People went to socialize.”
She said the flood of 2004 put the game out of business for more than a year. When it reopened, it was ushered in with the state's smoking ban, which didn't sit well with many players.
Warrene said she was bothered deeply when attendance started to dip but is pinning her hopes on this change.
“I'm so upbeat about it. I think the afternoon bingo is something people will like,” she said.
Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.