Turkey Bingo has been a long-time holiday tradition in the Santa Ynez Valley, and this year the family event will begin at 6 p.m. (with doors opening at 5 p.m.) on Saturday, Nov. 18, at the Solvang Veterans Memorial Hall.
The event was begun in 1913 by the Hejls Minde 23 chapter of the Danish Society of Dania of California and Nevada. The wives of the Dania men started the Danish Ladies Society, Dannebrog of Dania, and took over the event in 1937. The Alpha Pi sorority then took over in the late 1980s and has run the event since.
In the days when live turkeys were awarded as prizes, “we would take the turkey home and hang it from the laundry line until dad could take care of it, in other words,” said Kathy Kelsey of Alpha Pi.
There are no more live turkeys, as there were in the days at Dania Hall, which stood on the site of the current Petro’s Cafe in Solvang. But hundreds of people still flock to the event in hopes of winning a frozen bird for Thanksgiving dinner.
“My mom was in the Danish Ladies and we loved helping out at the event. It’s always just been a fun family event,” Kelsey said.
Turkey Bingo hasn’t changed much since the beginning. It still costs just a dime to play a game, although the turkeys are bought from El Rancho Marketplace in Solvang. Up for grabs this year will be 60 turkeys, and the last turkey won will also come with a basket full of Thanksgiving goodies.
“As long as we can keep it 10 cents we will. We want anyone to be able to come and play no matter what their situation in life might be,” Kelsey said.
There will also be other prizes to win, including gift baskets and certificates to local shops. Snacks and dinner are served by local organizations, and the menu changes each year.
The women of Alpha Pi also ask that people not bring alcohol to the family event. They also ask people to contact them first if they want to donate something for the raffle or contribute to the event.
Call Kelsey at 688-5804 or Shirley Hernandez at 688-4607.