Indoor Play–Beat the winter slog in the Berkshires with a game of trivia
If April is the cruelest month, as poet T.S. Eliot wrote, then March takes a close second as winter in the Berkshires makes its slow departure. As the snow wanes and it feels like the lawn at Tanglewood will never be green again, many locals turn to neighborhood establishments to liven things up. Trivia nights in bars are most common, although a slew of other options also exist.
(Photo above: Locals having some serious fun at The Knox Trail Inn in Otis, every Thursday night at 7.)
Palazzi plays on a team with eight to ten neighbors, rooted in a bit of healthy competition. “It’s Tolland Road vs. Kibbie Road,” he explains of the two teams’ respective neighborhoods.
The game is low-key—participants scribble answers in black and white composition notebooks—but the atmosphere is lively. Images are projected on a giant TV screen and questions about each follow, on subjects ranging from famous sportscasters and musical bands to the obscure spelling of words like “yarmulke.” The wood-paneled dining room is warmed by a crackling fire, and everyone is welcome—including kids. Palazzi and his crew are thankful for the hilltown establishment, where they enjoy pub fare before the game starts.
“It’s great to feel the support of locals,” says Bethany Riiska Perry, who grew up in Otis and manages “the Knox,” an establishment that dates back to 1776, when General Henry Knox drove his troops through town en route from Boston to Fort Ticonderoga—a fun fact that could make its way into one of three trivia rounds on any given Thursday night.
Trivia enthusiasts run the gamut, from those who enjoy an organized activity at their favorite watering hole to avid at-home Jeopardy! watchers. Jack Passetto is a regular at the Barrington Brewery’s Tuesday evening trivia. The retired sixth-grade English and social studies teacher from Great Barrington is drawn to the academic vibe and the competition.
“I just love trivia; it’s addictive,” he says of the eight-question rounds in which participants “bid” on the likelihood that they know the correct answer. A point value, ranging from 1 to 8, is elected for each question that involves a bit of friendly gambling. Participants play individually or in teams for gift cards to the establishment.
For trivia with a twist, head to HiLo in North Adams, where Eric Enderle hosts music trivia every other Sunday night at 7. Participants test their knowledge of everything music—from The Beatles to Lil Nas X—for a chance at prizes that includes gift cards and tickets to the comedy club and live music venue. Enderle’s approach is like MTV’s Remote Control—a game show from the late-’80s—and includes audio and video in the trivia rounds, often with live musicians.
“We mix it up a little and get more and more people every week,” says Enderle.
If you’re keen on connecting more than competing, there’s Mahjong at the Monterey Community Center on Monday evenings at 7. All are welcome on a walk-in basis, and regulars are on hand to teach others or slow the pace for those who are learning.
“It’s a very friendly game, and it keeps my mind going,” says Rebecca Wolin, a Monterey resident who only recently learned the game after taking a class at the Bushnell-Sage Library in Sheffield. Played with a set of 144 tiles that show Chinese characters and symbols, Mahjong is often compared to gin rummy.
Maureen Banner is a fan of Canasta, a game of the Rummy family made popular in the 1950s that she plays Thursday nights in Monterey. Since retiring, Banner credits this type of activity as increasing her social capital—a positive product of human interaction—that keeps her engaged and connected. “Doing this is such a different thing for my brain, plus it’s fun!” she says of the highly social and moderately competitive atmosphere among those who play.
On March 21, 2020 Pitch enthusiasts will head to Great Barrington for the Friends of Moe benefit tournament at the VFW. “We are able to create a really positive way to bring the community together,” says Randy Koldys. The game—drawing close to 40, two-person teams each year—is in memory of his partner, Maureen Snyder, who died of leukemia. Proceeds go to help families facing hard times.