Eight games in, 77-year-old Teresa Lassek took great pleasure in shouting “Bingo!” on Thursday night.
“My night is made. I’ll recommend you for a raise,” she jokingly told the caller who came to check her playing card and confirm her victory.
Lassek, of Fullerton, was with her daughter, Columbus resident Kristyn Kamrath. The two came out to the Platte County Fair to enjoy the free inaugural Family Bingo Night hosted by the Columbus Noon Kiwanis Club under an outdoor tent on the fairgrounds.
“It’s just a good way to spend time together,” said Kamrath, who noted she saw a poster for the event while out to dinner with her husband at El Tapatio. “I called her right away when I heard about it, gave her the date and time. She said she was coming.”
The two, like many others in attendance, used the event as a way to bond. But, make no mistake, Lassek is a bingo fanatic. Bingo is a game of chance in which each player matches numbers printed in different arrangements on small cards with the numbers the game caller draws at random, marking the selected numbers with tiles. When a player finds the selected numbers are arranged on their card in a row, they call out "Bingo!" to alert all participants to a winning card, which prompts the game host to examine the card for verification of the win. Players compete against one another to be the first to have a winning arrangement for the prize or jackpot.
“We’ve got a bingo star here,” Kamrath said, pointing to her mother.
Indeed, Lassek has been playing for 56 years. She got interested in the game when she was 21, and ever since, has been playing in Fullerton, Grand Island, Columbus and other area communities.
“She takes it very seriously; she usually plays anywhere from eight to 10 cards at one time,” Kamrath said of her mom.
She’s also well-prepared for each game she plays. Unlike her opponents at the fair who were using crayons to mark their sheets, Lassek had two unique bingo daubers she bought for $1 apiece. Both featured designs of a muscle man wearing a speedo.
“She likes shock value,” Kamrath said, with a laugh.
The veteran bingo player was quick to respond.
“Yeah, but they aren’t lucky,” she assured.
There was plenty of competitive banter among the mom and daughter, with Lassek playfully telling Kamrath “I’m better than you at bingo,” among her quips. But, it was clear it was all in good fun.
“It’s mostly for the visiting, because you never win big prizes,” Lassek said. “It’s not about the money.”
For Columbus Noon Kiwanis Club President Hollie Olk, who also serves on the Platte County Board of Supervisors, family bonding was exactly why the club decided to host the free event.
“That’s super special. It’s the kind of thing that makes your day,” she said of the mom and daughter. “It’s good to see them doing that. That’s the exact kind of thing we need more of today. We need more family time back in our lives.”
Chuck Whitney, club treasurer, shared a similar perspective.
“It’s a fun outdoor activity and it’s free,” he said. “That’s really what it’s all about.”
Although prizes weren’t the focus of the night, there were some on hand thanks to sponsors like McDonald’s, Pinnacle Bank, Sapp Brothers, Tooley Drug, Platte County Historical Society Museum, Horn T Zoo, Center 7 Theatre, Bomgaars, Quail Run, Taco John’s, Husker House and Dairy Queen. The mom and daughter left with movie theater and McDonald’s gift cards.
Olk said the club was happy to host the event, adding she hopes it becomes a new fair tradition. Bingo at the fair is something Lassek will undoubtedly support.
“It’s like having the pope here,” Lassek said of the Kiwanis’ bingo night.
Her daughter smiled.
“She loves bingo,” she said of her mom. “And the only thing she loves more than bingo is free.”
Matt Lindberg is the managing editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at email@example.com.