Charlotte Welcomes Back Gay Bingo

innergay11162015It’s been on hiatus since 2010, but Gay Bingo made its long-awaited return to Charlotte on Saturday night. The event is a key fundraiser for the Regional Aids Interfaith Network (RAIN), which is one of the largest nonprofits in North Carolina providing direct services to HIV/AIDS-impacted individuals. Gay Bingo got its start in 2000 as Big Hair Bingo in the basement of the Great Aunt Stella Center with about 100 supporters, but its popularity has rapidly grown over the years. In 2010, roughly 2,000 supporters attended the event at the Grady Cole Center.

Although Gay Bingo is targeted at a mature audience, it is an all-inclusive event for bingo lovers of all distinctions. The night’s unique combination of a campy musical drag review and a schtick-laden comedy show creates a fun and lighthearted evening full of laughs for an incredibly serious purpose. In total, Gay Bingo features more than a dozen volunteer performers who spend months in advance costume preparation and rehearsal.

Wondering what to expect if you were to attend next year’s event? Gay Bingo’s organizer, Nathan Smith, describes the game as “a bit outlandish, as there are guys in wigs, heels and thrift-store frocks performing in dance and musical numbers.” While there are no cash prizes, the event has partnered with several community businesses to offer a number of exciting raffle prizes.

The night’s host, lovingly known as Barbara Burning Bush, focuses on keeping the crowd excited and ready for more laughs while official Bingo Verifying Divas circle the hall to authenticate winning bingo cards throughout the games. According to Smith, “A straight line never wins a gay bingo, but a straight friend is always welcome.”

The crowd for this fundraising event is more diverse than you may expect. Church groups buy entire tables while book clubs, including some fun-loving grannies, always turn out for the evening’s festivities. When there’s an opportunity to raise cash for a good cause while playing a fun game, no one wants to miss out on the action. This year’s event hosted a sold-out crowd of more than 1,700 excited players.

Gay Bingo’s organizers hope to turn the fundraising games into an annual event moving forward. The mixture of tongue in cheek humor and legitimate donations to a good cause make it a perennial favorite amongst the philanthropic residents of Charlotte. With renewed interest, securing volunteers in the years to come is expected to be easier than in previous years. This year’s games were expected to raise more than $80,000 for RAIN.

While this year’s Gay Bingo festivities are in the books, it’s a great time to take a look at next year’s show and reserve an opportunity to have fun while giving back. If you’re a fan of over-the-top comedy, bingo and charity, you’ll have a tough time finding any other event better-suited for your specific interests than Gay Bingo. Join Barbara Burning Bush and company next year, and an awesome prize or two could be headed your way before you know it!