BOW VALLEY – Grab your drinks and get your dobbers ready.
It’s Sunday night and laptops and tablets are a buzz as former Canmore Legion bingo caller Randi Lynn Rinaldi organizes her second COVID Bingo for Bow Valley locals.
With more than 20 participants tuning into the virtual bingo by 6:50 p.m. Saturday (April 12) for a 7 p.m. start time, familiar faces chat to each other as Rinaldi gets organized before explaining the rules and games to the eager participants.
“I see bingo as something that is social and fun – easily adaptable and family friendly of sorts … it’s an easy way for people to connect,” Rinaldi said in a post-bingo phone interview.
On March 16, the Exhsaw Legion shut its doors with the Banff Legion following suit the next day and the Canmore Legion officially closed its doors on March 18 – leaving a Bow Valley bingo gap.
The shutdowns come during the global COVID-19 pandemic that has seen the provincial government declare a public health emergency while shuttering non-essential business fronts and reducing gatherings to a maximum of 15 people.
As of Tuesday (April 14), the Bow Valley had 18 positive cases between the Canmore, Banff, Exshaw and Lake Louise with eight active cases and 10 recovered.
Missing out on the community feel and realizing the gap, Rinaldi put the call out on community Facebook pages two weeks ago with enough interest to get the Canmore local to start her own Sunday night virtual games. Getting in touch with the players, Rinaldi purchased the cards and distributed them, for no cost, and offered prizes from her own home during the first week.
“I picked things I thought people would like, but a huge majority of people asked to donate something, either make something, or they had something to give away,” Rinaldi said.
Some of the prizes during the second week included different chocolate assortments, homemade jams, a handcrafted plate from a Bow Valley bingo regular, a two-litre of root beer, a four-pack of Canmore Brewing beers and a family game called Fart.
Taking approximately an hour, sometimes a little longer if there are technical difficulties or the regulars want to play an extra game, participants have the option to play a strip of three or a double strip of six, but if you are a more advanced player, just let Rinaldi know and she will accommodate the request.
“I adapt to what people’s capacity is. I’ve only purchased strips of three and six [to distribute] though … it’s not a super fast game, I’m trying to watch what people are doing, but it is definitely fun to play more cards as an adult,” she said.
Playing six games on two different coloured cards, the games range from the typical bingo assortment – four corners, one line anyway, the X, a cross and usually finishing the third and sixth round with the blackout.
Participants also have the option to have their video on and screen share, if they want the community feel.
“I have always loved bingo and puzzles. My husband jokes I have been working up to a pandemic lifestyle for some time now,” Rinaldi said with a laugh.
The bingo caller said it was a family affair to play TV bingo when she was growing up.
“We would play on Tuesday evenings and it was something we would do together as a family – it has good memories for me. Then when I moved to Canmore, it seemed like a fun, social and cheap thing to do,” she said.
Wanting to give people a sense of community during the pandemic, she will continue to host the games as long as she is able.
“I can’t guarantee until the end of the pandemic because I don’t know when that is, but I will definitely keep it up for a few months,” she said.
“It is just something to see the smiling faces, have some laughs and yeah, just have something to do.”
If anyone in the Bow Valley is interested in participating in the Sunday night games, newbies and lifers welcome, email Rinaldi by Saturday at [email protected].
Games are every Sunday at 7 p.m.