Are you smarter than a Rotarian?
Jill Terrell-Ouazanni is the keeper of the Trivia Night kitty.

Are you smarter than a Rotarian?

Monthly trivia night teases brains for charity

BRATTLEBORO — On a recent snowy January evening, the Brattleboro Sunrise Rotary Club hosted its monthly Charity Trivia Quiz Challenge at its new location and time: American Legion Post 5 on Linden Street, 6:15 to 8:45 p.m.

Sunrise Rotary will now hold its trivia night the second Monday of every month except for February, when it's taking time to regroup.

“We're undergoing a transition of who's running the ship,” says Linda Torunski, Trivia Night organizer. She notes the next Sunrise Rotary Trivia Night is Monday, March 9.

Teams of up to four players are invited to compete. Admission of $20 per person includes a buffet meal, participation in the game, and a donation to a charity, which changes monthly. January's recipient was the Winston Prouty Center. Past beneficiaries include the Brattleboro Area Drop In Center and Morningside Shelter.

“We try to promote the charity,” Torunski says, “and we tell the charity to bring as many people as they can to participate in Trivia Night."

At the January event, Winston Prouty Director of Operations Lisa Whitney said the center brought so many staff and board members that they had to split into two teams.

Among them were David Dunn, board president; Frederic Noyes, board member; Shelly Torunski, staff member; Katrina Irish and Alfred Hughes, teachers; Alison Wheeler, coordinator; Kathy Hallock, developmental educator; and Chloe Learey, executive director.

“It's nice to be at a fun community event that benefits the work we do,” Whitney said.

Torunski added that although Rotary members bring people to play, people from outside of the Rotary circle of friend have also participated. The event is geared toward adults.

Amid laughter, hooting, and applause from the participants, Torunski noted “it's been great to see everyone have so much fun for a good cause. For a small fee you can have a fun night, see your friends, and raise money for a charity."

Torunski describes the structure of the game this way:

“There are 10 rounds of questions, including a 'true-or-false' round, and a music round” where songs are played on the room's audio system, and teams have to answer questions about the selections.

She says the game includes a bonus round. At January's event, each table received famous actors' childhood photographs, and teams had to guess their identities.

Torunski's favorite is the “true or false” round, where she says, “everybody stands up, the emcee asks 'true or false' questions, and if you get it wrong you have to sit down.” The team with the last person standing receives bonus points.

The winning team gets $50 cash. Some teams donate their winings back to the charity, Torunski says.

Teams get to choose their names. January's competitors included HMS Victory, Prouty Pride, and The Honey Badgers.

A panel of four scorekeepers sits at a dais at the front of the room. The roster rotates monthly among Sunrise Rotary volunteers. At January's Trivia Night, Aviva Werkin, Jon Secrest, Sandy Ladd, and Sadie Fischesser tallied up the points of each of seven teams.

Ladd says she likes keeping score because “I like to know all the answers."

Secrest says he thinks it's more fun to play “but we're happy to make sure everybody has a good time."

Other Rotary members who were on hand in January to help run the event were club co-chair Alisa Barry and treasurer Jill Terrell-Ouazzani.

Of the latter, Torunski says, “she's sitting at the [registration] table, collecting the money, which is a good thing for the treasurer to do."

Local attorney and Sunrise Rotary member Jim Maxwell emcees for every Trivia Night.

Maxwell says he comes from “a spotlight background. [...] I was an actor for 20 years prior to law school.” He adds, “I try to keep the energy going. That's my job.”

As the game progressed, Maxwell quipped, in response to a participant's half-joking, picayune query: “You are really challenging me."

During a particularly tough round, one question Maxwell posed that elicited much groaning from teams was, What is the diameter of an official NHL puck: 3, 3{1/2}, or 4 inches?

To that, Maxwell assured players, “There's a box of tomatoes at the back of the room, if you want to throw them.”

“It's a hell of a lot of fun,” he says, noting, “Everyone is having such a good time. It's friendly and non-competitive.”

(For the record, NHL pucks are 3 inches in diameter.)

Maxwell said he sees the event gaining momentum and believes the more people who show up, the more fun it is. “I'm looking forward to the growth of the event,” he added.

The inspiration for the Trivia Night came from Sunrise Rotary member Linda Torunski's recent vacation. “There was a Rotary in Florida doing Trivia Night, and we adopted it from them. They provided us with electronic files with everything we need, including the questions,” she explains.

Sunrise's Rotary Trivia Night began in August 2014 at Ramunto's Brick Oven Pizza on Putney Road. Organizers moved the event because it quickly outgrew the restaurant's space, Torunski said. “We were limited by the number of people who could attend.”

The American Legion's main banquet hall offers a much larger area and allows Sunrise Rotary member Tristan Toleno's Entera Artisanal Catering to provide dinner to attendees. Torunski says Entera's Trivia Night buffet menu changes every month. A cash bar is also open for attendees during the event.

Torunski's reign as chair of Trivia Night ended with January's event. A former Vermont Yankee worker, with the plant's closure Torunski lost her job here. Entergy offered her a position at its New Orleans headquarters.

“I'm going to miss it,” Torunski said, of Trivia Night. She adds, “I'm going to miss Brattleboro, period. It's hard to leave."

Although Torunski says moving from Brattleboro means she will no longer attend Sunrise Rotary's Trivia Night, this isn't the end of Rotary, or Trivia Night, for her.

“When I find a Rotary down in New Orleans, they're going to have a Trivia Night. They just don't know it yet,” she says.

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