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VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

Saturday Night Bingo In Ryegate Corner

Hands near multiple bingo cards on a table
Erica Heilman
Everett Carbee participated in the Ryegate Corner bingo night last month (and did achieve bingo on this particular evening).

There's a lot of bingo in grange halls across Vermont, particularly in winter. Bingo starts at 6 p.m. on Saturday nights at the Blue Mountain Grange, in Ryegate Corner.

Makayla Perkins runs the bingo night there — she took it over from her father, Darryl, a few years ago. The grange lives in an old schoolhouse built in 1899. It's small and bright, with old wood floors, some long tables and folding chairs. There's an old woodbox filled up in the front entryway, with a woodstove at the far side.

"We do bingo every Saturday night, and it's open to anyone who wants to come," Makayla said. "We get a lot of community members ... from Woodsville, New Hampshire; South Ryegate, East Ryegate, right here in Ryegate Corner. We have people from Groton. We've had people travel from Lyndonville before."

"We do bingo every Saturday night, and it’s open to anyone who wants to come." — Makayla Perkins

Everett Carbee, one of the attendees on this Saturday in November, had something to say about this particular pocket of the Northeast Kingdom.

"We're not South Ryegate here. You're not East Ryegate. You're not North Ryegate. It's Ryegate Corner — and it's the better of them all," Carbee said. "Ninety-nine percent of the people in Ryegate are damn good people, 'cause you don't see no stuff in the paper."

The grange isn't just a place filled with bingo memories, as Carbee recalled coming to a dance at the grange around age 12 or 13.

"They had them old string dances going up and down the floor," Carbee said, "so women on one side and men on the other." 

And, Carbee added: "Boy, I picked the best two partners in the hall — best looking ones."

The exterior of the Blue Mountain Grange, in Ryegate Corner, during nighttime
Credit Erica Heilman / For VPR
From the middle of Witherspoon Road on this Saturday night, the only light that could be seen in any direction was the light from the grange door.

Eventually 14 people were in the room for this evening's bingo game. There wasn't necessarily an excitement in the air, but everyone seemed happy to be there and to get on with it.

Makayla's dog was asleep under the ticket table, and Makayla's father Darryl was the bingo caller; he started bingo here in Ryegate Corner more than 20 years ago, after he found a bingo set at the Barnet School auction.

When asked why he comes to the grange every Saturday night to call bingo games, Darryl spoke of community.

"I've been here for 40-some odd years, I've been a member of the grange. And been in this community all my life," Darryl said. "So yup — I grew up here, I farmed here. I work on several farms. ... I've worked for every one of them just about, I gotta say at one time or another, when I was 14 years old on up. So it's just — just community. Community means something to me, I guess."

On this evening, one of the winners is Jenny Nelson. The prize? $2.10.

Not a big haul, but at least Nelson didn't have to travel too far to the game.

"Our farm is just down the road. ... We have a dairy farm. Two hundred cows," Nelson said. "That’s why my husband isn't here."

Now, it's worth noting that not everyone in attendance was super into the game on this evening. One kid sitting at a table wasn't playing and provided this review: "Really boring."

Erica Heilman produces a podcast called Rumble Strip. Her shows have aired on NPR’s Day to Day, Hearing Voices, SOUNDPRINT, KCRW’s UnFictional, BBC Podcast Radio Hour, CBC Podcast Playlist and on public radio affiliates across the country. Rumble Strip airs monthly on Vermont Public. She lives in East Calais, Vermont.
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