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Play Bingo, win a bird Saturday

New Farmington fire chief Jim Larsen has never been to his department’s annual Turkey Bingo fundraiser, but he’s already got a pretty good idea what’s expected of him.

“They told me I need to kiss babies and shake hands,” he said.

Considering the size of a typical Turkey Bingo crowd, that’s likely to be a lot of babies, and a lot of hands.

The event, now in its 65th year, draws a little more than 700 people said Jeff Albee, president of the department’s fire relief association. They’ll squeeze onto long tables, mark off numbers with their daubers and wait for their opportunity to call out “Bingo” and perhaps bring home the centerpiece of their Thanksgiving dinner.

The event got so big a few years ago the department had to expand into the back bay at Fire Station No. 1 on Denmark Avenue. They updated the station’s speaker system so people playing in back could hear the caller, and they recently added 50-inch televisions so players could see the numbers being called. During the rest of the year those TVs are put to use in the department’s training room.

Money raised at the event goes to buy equipment that is not otherwise covered by the department’s budget. This year, the department used Bingo money to buy 10 new handheld radios.

“Those are life-saving things we need for the department,” Albee said.

Putting together to the event to raise that money takes a lot of work. Albee, in his seventh year leading the effort, said it takes a solid two months to get everything ready.

Most of that work goes into collecting door prizes and raffle items from local businesses. This year’s prizes include lawn chairs, a pop-a-shot game, Frisbees and free sundaes from McDonald’s.

This year, to celebrate the event’s 65th anniversary, the department will also sell 650 candy bars for $1 each. Inside 65 of those there will be Willie Wonka-style golden tickets. Those 65 people will win a prize, and will be entered into another drawing for the grand prize, a birthday party at the fire station hosted by the relief association and the fire department auxiliary.

It’s all a lot of work, but Albee likes seeing it all come together.

“I think it’s fun,” he said. “It’s great to see all the people in the community come out and rally together to support us.

“It’s a good night for everyone in the family,” he said. “It’s nice that kids can come. This year we encourage families and kids to come with and join in all the excitement.”

This year’s Turkey Bingo will take place from 6 to 10 p.m. Nov. 14. There will be cover-all games at 8 and 10 p.m.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

(651) 460-6606