When COVID lockdown first happened, like many other activities, Blue Devils Bingo closed and people were laid off. The Blue Devils Bugle and Drum Corps canceled all of their tours. There was no money.
Bingo funds the Blue Devils plus many other community non-profit organizations as well as youth performing arts activities including BD Performing Arts and the Walnut Creek Aquanauts.
After a couple of months, Brett Rios, Regional Manager, now retired, came up with the idea of Drive-In Bingo. It had promise, but it would require a great deal of planning and technology.
Here’s how it works. Players sit in their cars and listen to the numbers called out over the radio at 91.3FM on the dial. Large screen TV and loudspeakers are set up outside for those with non-working radios. If you want, you can Zoom Online and watch the caller and review the numbers that have been called. If you get a Bingo, you honk your horn to stop the game while runners verify your card.
Their large parking lot had been reorganized to provide for distancing protocols to accommodate 175 cars. Now that indoors is allowed with limited capacity, another 100 players can be seated inside.
Drive-In Bingo is only played four times a week, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoon. It has been successful beyond expectations.
According to Director Lucky Kalanges, the four nights are outperforming pre-COVID operations of 12 games per week.
To play, you reserve your parking space online and pre-purchase a Bingo kit of cards, games and markers up to 9am game day. Each kit is then assembled per order for pick up on game day.
“Some days, people will arrive as early as 8am to pick up their kits and then stay in the parking lot until we start.”
With the Online purchasing, Blue Devils Bingo can now see now see the diversity of their appeal. They are coming from as far as Sacramento and San Francisco, and all around the East Bay. Age is not the stereotypical seniors, but spread across all age groups over the age 18.
One car had three ladies that drove down from Vacaville. They were eating Chic-fil-A sandwiches that they had Door Dashed from Walnut Creek while playing several cards each. Virtually all the vehicles contained multiple players playing multiple cards.
COVID may go away, but it looks like Drive-in Bingo is here to stay.