Bingo players from all over the region filled a newly-remodeled area inside the former location of Ralph’s Food Fair. 378 seats were available and then completely sold out long before the real game of bingo started at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 6.
The game was the idea of Earl Shaffer, a volunteer with the Carter County chapter of the Citizens Veterans Association. The group is using the game as a fundraiser to provide ongoing maintenance of the war memorial park on Main Street and for funds for other projects.
By their charter, the funds they raise can only go for military-related causes or groups. Shaffer explained they could donate to a group like the American Legion but they couldn’t directly donate to local sports groups, as an example. However, who they donate to may be free to donate that money to causes they see fit to receive those funds.
The group has previously attempted to hold raffles at major local events to help keep the bills paid, but it wasn’t enough. That’s when Shaffer offered up the idea of putting together a bingo hall and getting a non-profit gaming license to raise funds.
Shaffer brought the idea to the Woods family, who own the building, and they helped renovate the space to make it suitable for the game.
A representative from Lancaster Bingo, a Louisville-based company, said it was nicest bingo hall she had ever been in, making note of the large television screens around the room. The screens show which numbers have been called and the type of bingo for each round.
Many air-purifying fans also circulate all the air in the room within 20 minutes. This helps keep cigarette smoke to a minimum, as smoking is permitted. Alcohol is currently not permitted.
“They were great to work with,” Shaffer said.
Along with park maintenance, Shaffer says the group would like to send Vietnam War veterans to Washington D.C. next year to the Vietnam War Memorial. And then, possibly, yearly trips to D.C. along with other projects.
The building also includes a kitchen, which will serve food during games. It’s called “Ralph’s Pretty Good Cafe.” Several positive comments were made about the chicken and dumplings cooking away on Saturday evening.
The hall also features electronic pull-tab games, a popular game before and after the main bingo game. The possibility exists that those games could be available during the week once the operation gets into full swing, along with the cafe also being open.
Currently, bingo is scheduled at 6:30 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday night, per their permit from the state gaming board. Pre-games start at 4:30 p.m.