Bingo caller Lance Smith wants to give away a big jackpot nearly as bad as avid players want to win it.
“I’ve never given away a jackpot,” says the 13-year Mid-Annapolis Valley Kinsmen Bingo caller.
The remark makes Brian Bent, who works the phones while Smith calls the numbers, snicker.
“I’m the treasurer and I don’t want to give no money away,” Bent jokes.
The duo meets at the seldom-used Eastlink studio in Aylesford every other Wednesday at 5:40 p.m. Teams of two Kinsmen members take turns running the broadcast week after week.
Smith, a Michelin employee living in Kingston, vividly remembers his first time in the caller’s seat.
Today, viewers can only hear his voice and see the hand he uses to move the bingo balls in place. When he started, the entire caller was visible and seated in front of an electronic bingo board used to display the numbers called.
“I was scared to death,” he recalls, rehashing old fears that he’d mess up on live television.
“And that’s the reason I do the phones,” adds Bent with a laugh.
Smith is less likely to be recognized now that the callers are no longer visible to viewers, but his signature laugh continues to be an instant giveaway to dedicated players ready for some bingo banter.
“You go somewhere and they’re like, ‘Oh ya, there’s the guy who doesn’t call the right numbers,’” he says.
“I say ‘Well, you just didn’t buy the right cards.”
Both Bent and Smith agree that having fun with it is a big part of what keeps them involved with the Kinsmen’s TV bingo. They’re proud to raise funds that the service club can, in turn, return to the community to help where help is needed most.
“The money we raise here helps,” said Smith.
“It doesn’t take a whole lot of work to do this, just a little bit of time.”
TV Bingo co-chairman Albert Johnson has been at it since the 70s.
The Middleton man’s claim to fame as a caller makes it easy to tell he’s at the helm when viewers hear catchphrases like “O-66, get your kicks on Route 66” and “N-39 and holding - holding everything I can.”
“It helps the community and bingo is our primary source of income,” says Johnson.
“We try to have fun with it without being overboard.”
Kinsmen clubs throughout the nation regularly support individuals living with MS and CF as part of a regional mandate, and Johnson is proud to say the group assists people in need in a variety of ways on the local level as well.
“It does feel good,” he says. “It’s a way of contributing.”
It’s all possible, he adds, because of the people buying the bingo cards week after week. He often recognizes the names of winners who started playing when the bingo began.
“The majority of them have been playing with us for 20, 30, 40 years. A lot of the people have been playing forever and a day.”
Johnson estimates that roughly 300 to 400 four-game booklets are sold each week, with more cards purchased when the jackpot and cookie jar prizes are high.
There’s a core group of volunteers among the 12-member Mid-Annapolis Valley Kinsmen Club working hard behind the scenes to ensure cards are sold from Bridgetown to Berwick, prizes are awarded and the bingo broadcast goes live every Wednesday at 6 p.m.
“It’s a big social thing. Most bingos, whether it’s live or on TV, is a social thing,” says Johnson, noting that it’s something people can do from the comforts of their home if they’re unable to get out.
“We enjoy doing it and we hope that the players enjoy it as well.”
To learn more about how to get involved with the Mid-Annapolis Valley Kinsmen Club, contact Johnson at 902-825-3062.