First BINGO event of the semester attracts students hoping to win prizes. (Laura Butler)

By Laura Butler

It’s 9 p.m. and something’s going on in the Keen Johnson Ballroom. The hall echoes with the sounds of music playing, friends talking and laughing and chairs shuffling. But all of a sudden, a voice comes over the microphone and the room becomes completely silent. After the voice finishes speaking, the silence is replaced by the light tapping of paint daubers being pressed against sheets of paper.Some people in the room have one sheet of paper in front of them, while others have sheets spanning across the table and a dauber in each hand. Their arms are moving so quickly they bump elbows with a neighbor sitting two chairs to their left. A cell phone rings and a girl at the far table answers in a breathless whisper, saying ‘No, I can’t talk. I’ll call you back – I’m playing Bingo.’

That scene was a familiar one for about 225 students on Eastern’s campus Tuesday night as Student Life kicked off the start of the semester’s activity with a Colonel favorite – Bingo.

In fact, Nikki Hart, Assistant Director of Student Life, said Bingo is the most highly attended program the office offers on campus. While she wasn’t sure when Student Life officially began sponsoring Bingo, Hart said she knew the even had at least been drawing a large following in the past couple of years she’s served as the assistant director.

“It’s big. We’ve outgrown Powell Lobby,” she said. “We had to move because we were going above the fire code. “

For many, the draw is the prizes. Hart said the prizes for the Bingos they host at the beginning and end of the semester usually get a $750 portion of her Student Life budget each, and the other sessions in between have about $400 worth of prizes up for grabs each time.

Smaller prizes, like Colonel spirit packs with T-shirts and bags are usually given away toward the beginning, but the dedicated Bingo-ers stick around until the end. They know that’s when the big prizes like the TVs and game systems are given away.

Sophomore Kaitlin Staverman, an elementary and special education major from Northern Kentucky, said she thinks she’s been to every Bingo since she arrived at Eastern – and it’s all about the prizes.

“(My friends) used to make fun of me for going all the time and said it was for old people,” she said. “But then I got them to come with me and they started winning these cool prizes, and look where they are right now. I won a popcorn and movie bucket the first time I came and I’ve been at least five times now.

Hart said the Student Life office interns get the duty of shopping at either Walmart or Meijer to choose the prizes. And intern Jesse Hood, who also serves as the emcee for the Bingos, said the shopping trips are the best part of his job.

“My favorite part is definitely spending other people’s money,” he said jokingly. “It’s so funny when you get to the checkout line and people see you with these huge carts of random stuff. I love their reactions.”

But the night isn’t always only fun and games. Things can get a little intense when the game is for a big prize, or it’s a close game with just a few numbers left to be called. The evenings usually aren’t without a few “boo-ers” and some obscenities shouted at the winners in frustration.

For some, the sighs and groans from the losing students in the audience are their own form of entertainment.

Sophomore fashion design major Becca Houser, of Cincinnati, said she thinks the intense atmosphere makes the game more exciting.

“I came to Bingo just about every time last year, and my favorite reason to come is probably because it’s so intense,” she said. “I like to watch people shout and curse at each other. Thinking about it is just funny.”

Hood agreed the atmosphere can get a little tense when the games get close.

“I guess it’s a mix of lightheratedness and frustration, if that’s possible,” he said. “Everyone’s laughing until someone calls ‘Bingo,’ and then they yell and tell you it’s bullcrap. It really is just a lot of fun, though.”

To join in on the Bingo action, check out the Student Life banners outside the office in Powell Lobby, or visit www.studentaffairs.eku.edu.

The next Bingo event is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 29, at 9 p.m. in the Keen Johnson Ballroom.