Island County Fair Association resumes ‘family-friendly’ bingo nights

Patrick Stumph holds up his winning bingo card, the first winner of the recently resurrected Island County Fair Association bingo.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Patrick Stumph holds up his winning bingo card, the first winner of the recently resurrected Island County Fair Association bingo.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

Island County Fair Association leaders hope that a game of chance will have them yelling “bingo!” like the crowds at the Coffman Building.

The third night of the recently resurrected association-organized bingo is tonight, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Diane Divelbess, president of the fair association board, said she had plenty of fun at one of the first two bingo nights, from which all of the money goes into producing the annual Whidbey Island Area Fair.

“We applied to the Washington Gambling Association and jumped through all the hoops,” Divelbess said, adding that their games are crafted to be more nice than vice.

“It’s considered almost like a family form of gambling than it is hardcore.”

At $12 for the initial buy-in of 18 games and $1.25 for the dauber, — the ink stamp to mark when a called number matches the number on the card — the three-hours of entertainment are cheaper than a movie ticket at a large cineplex.

Carrie Allen, one of the organizers along with Kiley Grant, Carol Coble and Marilyn Gabelein, convinced the fair association to jumpstart the program after attending last year’s fair. The catch was that she had to run it.

That was fine with Allen, who has lots of nostalgia for hearing numbers be called while eagerly holding the dauber and searching her card. As a girl on Whidbey, Allen played bingo during the fair with her grandmother. One location was rarely enough, however, and they would travel across the Puget Sound area to casinos and the Puyallup Fair for a chance at filling a line on their card and hollering “bingo!”

“Nowadays, there’s not as many family-type things you can go do indoors,” Allen said, later adding, “It’s a sentimental passion of mine.”

“The grandma can bring her 6-year-old granddaughter, husband and wife can have a quiet date night,” Allen added.

Neither Divelbess nor Allen said they had concerns about the nature of bingo being a form of gambling, with lost and gained money behind it.

“Bingo doesn’t have that casino vibe, it’s more of a family fun thing,” Allen said. “Don’t get me wrong though, there are some pretty die-hard bingo players … We have everything from good luck charms to lucky daubers.”

From now on, the fair association will run bingo nights twice a month, generally the second and fourth Saturday. Though it gets thrown off schedule a bit because the game is also returning to the annual fair this year, with twice-a-day sessions.

“It was something lacking in the community, besides the senior center,” Allen said.

Food, including chili made by Allen which she says is a hit, and drink will also be available for purchase.

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