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Turkey Bingo: The social event of the year

Posted 11/25/15 (Wed)

By Betsy Ryan
Farmer Staff Writer

Whoever coined Turkey Bingo as “Watford City’s social event of the year” was not exaggerating.
Heavy anticipation hung in the air as hopeful turkey winners scrambled to find seats. Excitement from the cost of Bingo cards so cheap, stomachs full of roast beef sandwiches served by the 4-H clubs, a sugar high from the bake sale - it was time to win that Thanksgiving turkey.
On Tues., Nov. 18, the Watford City Area Chamber of Commerce put on their annual Turkey Bingo. An evening that Watford City residents look forward to every year, the event has grown so popular that the high school Commons Area can hardly contain all the participants. Local businesses donated over 135 turkeys, cuts of beef, and Watford City Bucks as prizes.
It would ultimately take about two hours to give away all those prizes.
At 5 o’clock, people could come and buy dinner from the 4-H clubs and grab their table. By 6:30, when Bingo was to begin, there was no chance at finding a place to sit as the Commons Area was bursting.
Friends met up and huddled together with their pile of Bingo cards, ready for the action.
Upon a quick ask-around, no one could actually say how many years the event has been going on. It’s as if Turkey Bingo has always been around. Some of the older and wiser residents guessed maybe 15 years, but no one could be sure.
The real beauty of the event is that the possibility of winning a turkey appeals to both young and old. The turnout in the W.C.H.S. Commons Area was so diverse. A group of high school friends huddled on the stairs taking selfies with their Bingo cards. A grey-haired crowd of Watford City retirees grabbed a table and sat around joking about who was most likely to be the luckiest. Families came with kids as young as five years old learning how to run a Bingo card.
The atmosphere was warm and comfortable.
“I loved it!” says Karen Ewing, local mother of four. “It was so fun. It was really neat to see all of the community support.”
When it was time for Bingo to begin the room quieted down and people got serious.
It was easy to spot Turkey Bingo first-timers. Those were the ones lulled into the pull of cheap Bingo cards - nine cards for $3, 17 cards for $5. It was easy to get overzealous and think you could handle all those cards as the games got started. When Allen Shelley, the caller, started yelling out those numbers though, it was the experienced Bingo players who kept their cool.
Those who had only bought three or four cards could play and chat and enjoy the game. Those running nine or 10 cards were quickly breaking a sweat, incoherently mumbling numbers, dropping cards on the ground and throwing their arms in the air in frustration.
One of the most entertaining parts of the night was once a Bingo game had gone quite a while and several people had won a turkey that round, Shelley would make the decision to start a new round and yell, “Clear your cards!” The whole room would erupt in a communal groan. Players so let down, so close to a Bingo, and now had to start all over.
“I really liked how they changed up the types of Bingo games throughout the night,” continues Ewing. “My kids were disappointed to only win once, but they are already talking about coming back next year.”
It was luck, though, that really decided the evening. Some families left with three turkeys and some none. All was not equal at Turkey Bingo.
Events like this remind us that even though Watford City has grown so rapidly, it has not lost its charm. Families still come together to enjoy community events. The Chamber of Commerce is still dedicated to bringing the community together. And a 91-year-old woman can still win a turkey.