BRISTOL - The 2017 Mum Festival season kicked off Sunday with bingo at the Bristol Polish American Citizens Club.
The mum plant itself was outnumbered by bingo cards, markers and more players than ever before.
“We have a tremendous turnout this year,” Head Caller Marlin “Ben” Bendickson said, looking over the increasingly-growing crowd several hours before the first game was set to begin.
The club hosts regular bingo games every Wednesday evening and this is members’ second year hosting Mum Bingo. Nearly 150 people played Sunday, vying for cash prizes exceeding $400. Proceeds collected will go back into the community, according to Linda Salisbury, Mum Bingo chairperson.
“This heads off the Mum Festival and helps support local charities here in Bristol,” she said Sunday.
Money will be filtered into groups including the Parent-Child Center at Bristol Hospital and the Bristol Exchange Club’s scholarship fund for local high school graduates.
Bristol residents Donna (Doolittle) LaFleur and Laurette Begin cook food and sell tickets at St. Ann’s bingo every Thursday evening. They actually had a chance to play Sunday.
“A lot of St. Ann’s players are here today,” LaFleur pointed out. “We’ve been greeting them as they walk by our table.”
At the front of the hall selling tickets, passing out cards and collecting admission were Armande Zobbi and Nick Raponey, bingo old-timers.
As the Polish Club Secretary, Raponey, 99, has been volunteering at bingo games for 37 years.
“It’s fun,” he said. “I’m helping the club out.”
Fellow members describe him as a club icon.
Zobbi, now in her seventies, has been running bingo since she was 19 years old.
“It’s a pastime, like a hobby,” she said Sunday. “I’m the only surviving volunteer left since we started in 1933.”
People were as excited about a long table of raffle prizes as they were bingo. Plainville resident Sherry Gravelle had her eye on several baskets, raffle tickets in-hand.
“This is awesome. Look at all this stuff,” she said. “I just want to support the Polish Club and all the fine work it does.”
She’s also looking forward to the Mum Parade, set for next Sunday, Sept. 24 at 1:30 p.m. in downtown Bristol.
“My granddaughters will be marching in the parade,” Gravelle added.
Avon residents Anthony Saraceno and Laura Roberts both grew up in Bristol and came to bingo to support their hometown.
“We try to do all the Mum festivities every year,” Roberts said. “It’s like a tradition for us.”
Erica Schmitt can be reached at 860-801-5097, or firstname.lastname@example.org.