Grandma’s heading to bingo tonight, kiddies. Except, this time, she’s not going to that boring bingo parlor down the street.
Guilford Green Foundation, which grants thousands of dollars to Greensboro and Triad area organizations serving LGBT communities, has hosted their Green Queen Bingo for six years now. Part social event, fundraiser and community builder, the rolling event raises close to $30,000 for the foundation each year while providing for fun, fellowship and education.
“We’ve got a mixed audience,” says Bill Falcon, Bingo chair and member of the Guilford Green board of directors. “It isn’t predominately gay or straight, not predominantly men or women. You’ve got a great mix of people who laugh, talk, get to know each other and realize that its a group of people who put their shirts or pants on one leg at a time.”
The premise of the game is simple: Community members come together for a hilariously fun time of bingo, with added entertainment from local drag queens. Interspersed between some games are drag performances and sketches. As each game is played, emcee Big Shirli Stevenz and each game sponsor call out bingo numbers and trade jokes and one-liners.
“I think we’ve developed a cult following,” Falcon says. “We have some hardcore, diehard fans there for every single Bingo. They want to see every costume, participate in every theme.”
The money raised at each of the five Green Queen Bingos held throughout the year — some $5,500-$6,000 per event — goes to benefit Guilford Green Foundation’s granting operations. Since the group’s inception, more than $550,000 has been distributed to area organizations including more than $50,000 granted last year alone. But Falcon says Bingo didin’t start out as a fundraiser.
“Bingo started out with a grant from the Community Foundation,” Falcon says. “My sister and Ches Kennedy were sitting around one night and said, ‘Let’s try it and see if we get it.’ They wrote the grant and the Community Foundation said yes. Bingo was born.”
The events became so popular, Guilford Green soon realized it was a way to support their granting efforts. The road to local popularity, however, met resistance in the beginning. Some of the first games drew protesters.
“When Bingo first started it was new, it was different,” Falcon recalls. “The city has always been very diverse and welcome but as with any new, high profile gay event in any city you will always have people coming out with their own opinions. We welcome them and I’m proud to say that in my four years as Bingo chair no one has ever protested.”
Guilford Green Foundation’s next Green Queen Bingo will be held on April 30, in Downtown Greensboro’s Empire Room. The theme this go ‘round is “Bingo 911 — Don’t let the badge fool you.”
Falcon explains: “In the words of Big Shirli, it is the good, the bad, the ugly, and she’s got a gun so you better be careful!”
Tickets are $15 ($10 with student or military ID) and can be bought or reserved online at ggfnc.org/bingo.html. Cocktails with the Queens starts at 6 p.m. with the game show beginning at 7 p.m. (Alcohol sales or consumption are not permitted on the game floor). : :
[Ed. Note — This writer is a former member of the Guilford Green Foundation board.]
Calling all sponsors…
Guilford Green Foundation is looking for Green Queen Bingo sponsors. Organizations and businesses can sponsor individual bingo games or become season sponsors. For more information or to sign up as a Bingo sponsor, contact Guilford Green at 336-790-8419 or firstname.lastname@example.org.