In eighth grade when they spilt up our gym class, sending the boys to do wrestling and the girls to do step aerobics, I was appalled. Why couldn’t girls wrestle? Or, at least learn something that might prove useful – self-defense, for example? So I circulated a petition, handed it to my gym teacher, and she agreed that the girls would learn self-defense – next year.
Since I was graduating, I didn’t get to see the fruits of my labor and was stuck doing step aerobics. A similar thing happened in high school when I petitioned to have a women’s history elective added to the curriculum. It was cool to know I’d helped get those classes off the ground, but it would’ve been even better to experience them.
Last year, I had another idea that I hoped would catch on. It wasn’t on the same level as my teenage feminist causes, just something fun. I wanted to do trivia events at the Beacon. I brought Trivial Pursuit cards with me to work, and the regulars and I started quizzing each other. But, I couldn’t figure out how to build it into an actual trivia night since I couldn’t read questions, keep score, and serve drinks at the same time.
As it turned out, the Forest Park Public Library had the opposite problem. They’d just gotten an awesome trivia kit and the adult services head, Ben Haines, was eager to put it to use, but felt that trivia night was the kind of event that they should bring out into the community. That way, they could use it as a tool to remind residents that the library is more than just a place to check out books.
So we collaborated. On the second Wednesday of every month, the librarians invade the Beacon armed with answer sheets and pencils that they distribute to everyone who wishes to play, either as an individual, or on a team of up to five people. The delightful Sarah Beth Warshauer uses a microphone to ask the questions and entertain the crowd and Ben keeps score on a large whiteboard. They play music from the library’s catalog on a laptop between rounds while teams confer. And I run around serving drinks, making popcorn, and smiling to myself when I know an answer.
The librarians are constantly tweaking trivia night according to their own observations and participants’ input. One such addition was the picture round, a very popular part of the event. Halfway through trivia night, players receive a sheet of photos and are asked to identify baseball players, or Oscar winners, or politicians involved in a sex scandal. It all depends on the theme that Ben and Sarah Beth cook up. A brand-new element is the final question, which can be a total game-changer because teams can gamble up to 15 points on it.
The crowd grows each month, and last Wednesday, on trivia night’s one-year anniversary, we had the biggest turnout yet. That night also happened to be my birthday, and Sarah Beth led the crowd in singing “Happy Birthday” to me. I half-hid behind the beer taps, embarrassed, but beaming on the inside because I felt like I got to celebrate my birthday as part of the community. Trivia Night is the combination of two of my favorite things in Forest Park – the library and the Beacon – and I’m proud that I helped organize something really cool that I finally got to take part in.
Stephanie is the author of “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone” and “Ballads of Suburbia.” She’s a proud Forest Parker who holds a master’s in fine arts degree from Columbia College Chicago. She also works locally at the Beacon Pub and loves to hear from people through her Web site www.stephaniekuehnert.com.