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May 2002 / games :: email this story to a friend

Trivial Pursuits
By Kevin Carbery

Apparently, St. Louis is the trivia night capital of America. If not, it must be near the top. I say this based on personal experience. For those unaware of the trivia night scene in the Gateway City, please allow me to clue you in on this entertaining way to kill an evening.

At a standard trivia night event, teams consisting of anywhere from six to 10 people (depending on the rules of the particular site) compete against each other to attain the highest scores. Typically, the host will ask 10 rounds of 10 questions. Each round is on a different category. The top-scoring teams win prizes. Prizes used to consist of dinners donated by area restaurants, but over the last several years most groups have gone to cash awards. I have seen prizes for first place teams starting at $150 and rising to as high as $1,000. The $1,000 was an aberration. I would say that most first-place teams get $200 to $300 to divide among their players these days.

Does all this sound geeky to you? Well, it does to many people before they try it.

Metropolis trivia night What makes these events more than nerd fests are the refreshments offered. At many trivia nights, the charge to participate is $10 to $15. Your admission price often gets you unlimited popcorn, pretzels and beer. Where else are you going to be able to drink beer for three or four hours for $10 to $15? Not in a bar. Certainly not at Busch Stadium. Your team can finish in last, but who cares if you've spent the evening eating and drinking and having fun with your friends? In addition, many teams bring in elaborate food spreads from home. How well you chow down is up to you.

Trivia night events can draw in hundreds of people. I once emceed a trivia night at the Kirkwood Community Center where there were 75 tables of people. With six to eight players per team, there easily were 500 or more people in the building. Most competitions consist of anywhere from 15 to 45 teams.

As someone who writes questions for and hosts trivia night events, what I try to do is bring up topics that can start conversations. Movies, music, television and sports are standard subjects, but I also have done categories on advertising slogans, celebrity scandals, politicians and comic strips. I've had categories on Clint Eastwood and animals and the Old West. The point is to get people talking.

I became aware of trivia nights in the mid-1980s. The first one I participated in was at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Oakville. I had a blast. I soon found that Catholic churches around South County and South St. Louis were holding them almost weekly. They soon spread to other denominations and organizations. Today, I get calls from groups all around the metro area to host their trivia night events.

Trivia nights normally are offered on Friday and Saturday nights. The peak periods for the events are in the fall and winter, though a dedicated trivia team (willing to do a bit of driving) could play at least once a weekend almost all year long.

Getting back to why I called St. Louis the trivia capital of America... Well, I have had a number of friends who were trivia night fans who have moved to other cities. All of them have told me how much they miss the St. Louis trivia events. People I know who have moved to Atlanta, Houston, Denver and Kansas City all have told me that there are no trivia nights to be found in their new towns. There just is no such thing. Some have tried to stir interest in trivia nights with their new church groups or other civic organizations, but they have not had any luck.

If you are interested in having me host your trivia night or would like further information about this pastime, e-mail me at:

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