The name of the game at the Murray County Fair – Bingo!SLAYTON — The quiet baa of a sheep, the giggling of children, the constant low hum of friends and neighbors chatting – these are all sounds that people associate with a fair. In Murray County, there’s another sound that veteran fairgoers are used to hearing.
SLAYTON — The quiet baa of a sheep, the giggling of children, the constant low hum of friends and neighbors chatting – these are all sounds that people associate with a fair. In Murray County, there’s another sound that veteran fairgoers are used to hearing.
The Avoca American Legion and Auxiliary have sponsored the bingo booth at the Murray County Fair for 27 years, according to auxiliary member Sharyn Busswitz. And she should know – she’s been at the forefront of the bingo booth organization for all of those years.
“All of the money we raise goes to a variety of charities and a little bit of building upkeep,” she said Friday afternoon as she sorted through bingo prizes. “We donate money to a lot of causes.”
The money made at the booth is nothing to sneeze at. Thursday night, the booth pulled in $1,900 at 75 cents a card.
“There are a lot of players, and its all in good fun,” she said.
An hour later, when the booth was packed with players, her husband Roger Busswitz called out numbers and chatted with the crowd.
“We started out doing this under a tent,” he told the players. “And was that hot! B-7!”
With each number called, players chuckled or groaned, willing the last remaining empty spot on their card to be announced. As the numbers came out each game, anticipation grew until finally, a shout rings out.
The prizes range from blankets to household items to toys. Huge stuffed animals sit beside crock pots, children’s board games share a shelf with tool sets and sets of storage containers hover behind small vacuum cleaners. In a game that can be played by tiny kids, laughing teenagers, moms and dads and seniors, the range of prizes has to fit the customers. Murray County fairgoers know there will be prizes on the shelf to make them smile and dig out a few more quarters.
“The benches stay pretty full,” Sharyn said as she handed more prizes out to volunteers filling the shelves before the gaming started Friday. “People love to play.”
The Legion and auxiliary members have a pretty good time, themselves.
“I love seeing all of the kids,” said auxiliary member Nancy Lee Pierson. “We see a lot of the same faces every year, and such a wide range of age. Little ones to senior citizens. And everybody smiling and laughing.”
Her husband Doug Pierson is a long-time member of the Legion, and the whole family has been involved in the bingo activities since the gaming at the Murray County Fair began.
Sharyn and Nancy Lee have been the prize buyers for all of those years, something they do year-round.
“We hit a lot of black Friday and Christmas sales,” Sharyn said.
Over the years, the biggest change has been the prizes, Nancy Lee added.
“They get bigger and nicer each year,” she said. “We watch the sale items, we shop locally whenever we can and we find bargains.”
Ten-year-old Erica Gervais of Slayton would probably agree about the quality of the prizes at the Avoca Legion bingo booth. She was the lucky winner of Thursday night’s prize drawing — something each bingo player is encouraged to sign up for when they sit down to play.
Gervais was all smiles as she clutched the huge stuffed bear she had won. The toy was almost as big as Gervais.
When a player gets a bingo, a decision has to be made. A vegetable chopper? A stuffed horse? A cupcake pan or a Barbie toy? The choice between practical or playful is half the fun.
“Look at this!” MacKenzie Granum, 9, of Avoca exclaimed as she hoisted her treasure — a giant stuffed frog.
So, how do Sharyn and Nancy Lee pick out all of the prizes?
“I go with my gut,” Sharyn admitted with a laugh.
It takes several people to run the booth at any given moment. There is money to be collected at the beginning of each game, prize shelves to be filled and numbers to be called.
“It takes a lot of help,” Sharyn admitted. “The legion and auxiliary members do a lot of it, but we get other volunteers. Sometimes I just see people and ask.”
She watched with a grin as Nancy Lee chatted with a few customers between games and Roger traded places for caller duty with Nancy Lee’s daughter.
Yep, it’s a lot of work,” she said. “But it is also a lot of fun.”