Someone left the Nov. 19 Rhinelander Lions Club bingo game at Rhinelander's Ray Rousseau Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3143 with a lot more money then they walked in with after hitting the progressive jackpot that had grown to $2,119.75 on the last game of the evening.
The VFW Post is once again playing host to a weekly bingo night, but unlike in years past, it is only renting out its hall and bingo equipment to the local Lions Club.
Jeff Kataoka said the Lions Club took over for the VFW after attendance dwindled to the point where the post pulled the plug three years ago.
This is the second year that the Lions have had bingo at the VFW post, he noted.
"They (VFW) only had three people managing the game," Kataoka said. "So they decided to call it quits because no members would step up to take it over and they approached us about renting the building."
Kataoka said the Lions approached the VFW about renting the building, and the two groups were able to come to an agreement.
"VFW members are allowed to play, so Ralph (Larson, Quartermaster of Post 3143) likes it because he could never play before, he was running the game."
"Good timing," Kataoka said of the two organizations combining forces.
With the rental of the post came all of the equipment the VFW had purchased over the years. This includes two boards in the main room that show what numbers have been called, another in the bar area and television monitors to show the balls as they come out of the machine on the ball board.
Last week's big prize was noteworthy for the collaborative effort.
"This is the highest jackpot that has been in the Rhinelander bingo area," Kataoka said. "The Rhinelander Lions had bingo many years ago, and they stopped it due to lack of participation.
Kataoka said the crowd includes a sizable contingent of young people.
"If you go out in the bingo hall and walk around and look around, you have a lot of kids out there. And actually, families come and play because children are allowed to play if they come along with their parents," he said.
Kataoka would only say that it was a "young, Rhinelander guy" who won the progressive jackpot last week.
In addition to the sale of bingo packets, Lions also receive the income from the sale of concessions. However, in keeping with the family-friendly atmosphere, there are no alcohol sales.
"We have kids here, we don't have an alcohol permit," he said. "We try to keep it like family."
The proceeds from the games go to a good cause.
"It's a fundraiser for the Rhinelander community," Kataoka said. "All the money stays in the Rhinelander area. We donate to a lot of the youth programs, athletic programs, so it would be soccer, flag football and others. This year we're taking suggestions, because some people said we only do sports, so we can do something different next year."
As the progressive jackpot kept climbing, so did attendance.
"We usually get a pretty good attendance, about 60 to 70 people every game," Kataoka said Nov. 19. "But last week (Nov. 12), we were over 100 and this week we're approaching 100."
While the big jackpot was captured last week and stared over at $100, the other games carry cash prizes of their own.
"That night, we gave away $3,100 in cash prizes," Kataoka said. "That's all the other bingo prizes we gave besides the $2,119."
The club starts selling bingo cards at 5 p.m. and the early bird games start at 5:30 p.m. Following an intermission, the main games start around 7 p.m. with the progressive jackpot game rounding off the evening at around 9 p.m.
According to Kataoka, for $20 a player can purchase the cards for every game. Extra cards also sold separately.
Jamie Taylor may be reached via email at email@example.com.
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