Trivia nights have a big following for local groups

Trivia nights have a big following for local groups

BY JILL KASSANDER, SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

It is pretty easy to tell the seasoned players from the newbies. They arrive with coolers filled with drinks, platters of food, paper plates, napkins, plastic cutlery and sometimes tablecloths and centerpieces. They stake out their tables and start schmoozing with one another and readying for the game.

Then there are the first time players. They have that “deer in headlights” look as they enter the venue where the game is taking place. If they are lucky, they have already made arrangements to sit with someone who knows the ropes. Otherwise, they will look around the room and realize they are woefully unprepared for the evening.

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Welcome to the world of trivia night fundraisers. They are the hottest things for organizations looking to raise money. Organizers say the evenings pull in anywhere from $5,000 – $10,000 or more depending on additional features such as sponsorships and auctions. The events are able to draw in more people with their lower attendance costs and fun, gaming atmosphere.

Burton Boxerman has done the trivia nights for Shaare Zedek for a number of years. He has always liked trivia and often used trivia questions when he taught to keep classes interested. Both he and his wife Benita have been on Jeopardy.

“We got started going to trivia nights when we were invited years ago by a fellow teacher,” Burton said. “We were fascinated. People were bringing fantastic food, tablecloths and drinks. They were laughing, visiting and playing a game.”

Saul Mirowitz Day School – Reform Jewish Academy recently held its fifth annual trivia night. The event has proven very popular, said director of development Jean Millner. They are also able to draw from the St. Louis community at large with ads in community papers and on radio stations.

“There are so many local people who love to play trivia and actually go to games almost every weekend,” Millner said. “There is even a local Web site which lists games: www.trivianights.net.”

One of the advantages to trivia nights is the ability for groups to control their expenses: both time and money. The biggest expense for the night is usually the venue. Participants are usually encouraged to bring their own food and drinks and paper goods which cuts down on expenses and set-up time. Groups usually encourage people to purchase entire tables which brings in more participants and adds to the social nature of the event. Prizes are awarded for the best dressed table and best spread of food at the SMDS-RJA event.

There are several additional ways to raise extra money. Organizations sometimes offer different levels of sponsorship. Often silent auctions and raffles are held with prizes donated by individuals or businesses. Some events allow the purchase of “mulligans” at each table. The mulligans offer a free pass on a question with usually a maximum of three per table. Then there are the games held between the trivia rounds with names like “50/50,” “Heads or Tails” and “Dead or Alive.”

“There are people who just run to trivia nights,” Barbara Shechter from B’nai Amoona said. “At our congregational trivia nights we get people from outside the Jewish community and groups who follow trivia nights. People enjoy eating, playing and socializing. It’s a fun way to spend an evening and raise some money.”