If it’s possible to describe something that draws a couple thousand people a secret, then FACT BINGO night is one of the Delaware River Town’s best-kept secrets.
It’s one of those increasingly rare events, at least, that locals seem content—determined, really—to keep to themselves. Trouble is, at each one, the circle widens just a bit more, and tickets for the next one are suddenly selling out in a week instead of two weeks.
Wait, BINGO? FACT?
The BINGO nights—yes, BINGO—are a longtime staple for FACT Bucks County. They’re held four times a year at the Event Center by Cornerstone in New Hope, and they raise about $40,000 a year for the New Hope-based nonprofit, which it puts toward preventing HIV/AIDS and supporting those living with it in Bucks, Hunterdon, and Mercer counties. (FACT stands for Fighting AIDS Continuously Together.)
If you thought HIV was a thing of the past, there are over a million people in the United States living with it, according to the last count, and another 39,000 were diagnosed in the most recent year that the data’s available, more than a third of which were people between 25- and 34-years-old.
This isn’t your parents’ BINGO
Or maybe it is. FACT BINGO is a cross-section of virtually every demographic living in and around New Hope and Lambertville at this very moment, and that’s what makes it such a sight to behold. Along one long table, you may find a group of lacrosse moms from Solebury, a serious-looking bunch from New Hope Manor, and a band of gay men who picked up their tickets at the front door under the name The Peckers.
In other words, yes, BINGO is the reason they’re all here together on this Wednesday night, but it’s far from the only reason. Some come to pop bottles and get away from their kids for a few hours. (There’s a bar, but most come with their own coolers in tow.) Some come to hang out with friends they tend to see less and less of anymore. Some come strictly for the BINGO. (It’s the serious-looking bunch from New Hope Manor.)
And Miss Pumpkin, a New Hope icon, is the glue that keeps everybody laughing together. She calls the games, but her primary roles are to crack inside jokes (then let everyone in on them) and jump into conversations within earshot of the stage, both of which get bawdier the drunker she gets throughout the night.
New Hope used to be filled with these kinds of parties.
They’re much rarer now, and everybody at the BINGO nights seems to realize it. That’s why they’re here, in a banquet room behind a fire station, on a Wednesday night, dressed in character. Oh, right—we forgot to mention that part. The great majority of the crowd comes dressed according to the theme. Quite literally, anything goes.
Next up: Let’s Get Shamrocked on March 13. Buy your tickets here. (They go fast.) And start plotting your costume—unless you fancy being singled out by Miss Pumpkin.