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Win, lose, or draw'

Team trivia celebrates five years of fun competition

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September 24th, 2013
Team trivia celebrates five years of fun competition
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Most of the teams have claimed their tables, and the din of conversation creates a festive atmosphere, even without the balloons, cupcakes, and "I love Team Trivia" t-shirts.

The five-year anniversary of trivia at Brooksby is another Saturday afternoon party attended by loyal participants for both challenge and entertainment.

"It's just fun," says Jean Kimmel, a longtime volunteer runner, meaning she collects the answers and brings them from teams to the scorekeeper. "I get to see the people and talk to them. It's really a social thing; it sounds like a chicken coop around here." Between 50 and 70 people regularly turn out every other Saturday for Brooksby's Team Trivia, founded by Irving Babner, who lives at the community and hosts the game for about half the year. When Irving and his wife go to Florida for the winter, Brooksby resident John Murphy assumes the role of host. "We have a very loyal following. Some, thank goodness, have been playing for five years," Irving says, adding, "We're always looking for new people."

Publicized as the most fun at Brooksby for $1, the event features a wide range of categories; participants might test their knowledge of parades, phobias, and country music in one sitting. In each round, teams wager points based on their likelihood to know the answers in each category. At the end of the game, which is divided into two parts plus half time and final questions, the team with the most points wins $20 in lottery tickets, with consolation prizes for the teams in second and third place.

A few years ago, one of those scratch tickets turned into $20,000 of winnings for one team. Winnings since haven't topped that one ticket, but, says Carl Thorsten, who lives at Brooksby and regularly attends, "Whether we win, lose, or draw, we have fun." 

Passionate host

With piano accompaniment from well-known Brooksby musician Ted Good, Irving kicked off the celebration by leading the group in a round of "Happy Birthday" before blowing out candles on an actual cake, and then singing "God Bless America." Irving is a natural host, comfortable at the microphone and often interjecting humor into his questions and answers. In a question about the Li'l Abner comic strip, Irving joked, "I was going to name my son Abner Babner." 

While he seems to assume the role of host effortlessly, Irving puts significant time into trivia behind the scenes. Irving turns to the Internet, television shows, and current events for trivia fodder, but he is selective about his questions. He spends about three hours writing each quiz, which he saves. For a bit of nostalgia, he chose to reuse the first quiz for the fifth anniversary celebration.

Irving says his goal is to make the questions fair, and it's been successful if [the players] find them interesting or entertaining. He adds, "You have to strike a happy medium." 

Irving first became involved in team trivia at a country club in Florida, where a large group would turn out for dinner and trivia. "That's why I like playing here better, because they're purists; they come just for the game," Irving says of Brooksby. "The mere fact that we can have this kind of interest on a Saturday afternoon is pretty darn good," he adds.

Saturday is usually family time, but, nevertheless, we're going strong. Intermission during the five-year anniversary celebration included cupcakes, ice cream, and the announcement of special lottery ticket prizes for all teams. Team trivia participant and Brooksby resident Marie Wakefield took the microphone in an impromptu display of gratitude for Irving's efforts. "We wouldn't be here, wouldn't be having all this fun or making all this money, if it weren't for Irving," Marie says. Irving's response was a humble reminder that group trivia is also made possible by a team of volunteers.

Dedicated volunteer team, participants

Through the years, word of Brooksby trivia's success has traveled and Irving has shared his knowledge with other senior communities. In those discussions, he noted one key factor in Brooksby's success: its volunteer committee. About seven volunteers, including Irving's wife Esther, contribute regularly by setting up tables, printing materials, collecting answers, tallying scores, and buying lottery tickets for the winning teams. "In order to keep anything going five years, you have to have a dedicated committee," Irving says.

Participants are also a requirement. At Brooksby, participants often arrive up to an hour before the 1:30 p.m. start time to choose tables and set up with their lucky charms and snacks. Many of the teams have been playing together for years, building friendships that extend beyond the game. Seated with longtime teammates, Freda Shelan, who lives at Brooksby, says with a smile, "We have fun, that's the big thing. We don't know what we're talking about, but it sounds good."

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