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Trivia nights get Alaskans out of the house

Hunter Morrison

In the dark, cold winter, it can be easy to become antisocial and hibernate in the comfort of your own home. Trivia nights, held by local restaurants and bars, provide an opportunity for Alaskans to socialize and meet new people. They also provide a fun brain challenge and can bring people out to new restaurants.

What started as a weekly tradition at Odie’s Deli in Soldotna has since been taken over by other establishments. The Duck Inn and The Goods, both located on Kalifornsky Beach Road, host their own trivia nights once a week.

“I never really played trivia until I moved to Soldotna,” said Maura Schumacher, a volunteer trivia host at The Goods. She says the restaurant and grocery store has held trivia nights for about eight months.

“For me, it’s nice to just have something on the calendar every week at the same time to keep me motivated to get out of the house, do something different, hang out with friends, have a meal and work my brain a little bit differently than it is during the workday,” Schumacher said.

On this particular Wednesday night trivia, the establishment’s power has been knocked out. But that doesn't stop trivia-goers from playing. Candlelight illuminates the teams’ answer sheets, and employees continue to cook customers’ food.

“The vibe, not only tonight, but other nights with trivia at The Goods is that it’s focused on what the people who are attending want, you know? If we want a relaxed night of trivia, if we want to score things differently, if we want to end early or stay late, we get to kind of choose,” Schumacher said.

“It’s really nice to have a little something where you can get out and get some social activity,” said Jen Luton, employee and trivia player at The Goods. Since the establishment does not serve alcohol, she says it provides a more family-friendly trivia option.

“It’s a lot just to take care of yourself on a daily basis sometimes, especially during the winter, so if you can outsource some of that, it’s really nice,” Luton said.

The Duck Inn has been hosting trivia every week for about two years. Employee Sam Spencer says when he first began organizing the bar’s trivia events, he wasn’t quite sure what he was doing. He also didn’t have a working laptop.

“I think it does help the community, it’s become one of The Duck’s busiest nights,” Spencer said. “It’s not the party crowd, it’s the trivia crowd, and I think that expands reach in a good direction. What else are we going to do besides slowly lose our minds, right? Might as well lose them together.”

Although both establishments experience ebbs and flows in trivia participation, they say theme nights seem to draw in the most participants. The Goods recently held a drag trivia night that brought in twenty teams.

Similarly, The Duck Inn hosted a Harry Potter-themed trivia night over the summer, which brought in the most customers Spencer has ever seen. He says that from a game design standpoint, it can be difficult to come up with questions that are challenging, but not so much that they're discouraging.

“Really what you’re hoping for as a trivia host is that groan, that ‘ugh’ kind of thing,” Spencer said. “Hopefully it’s encouraging. You want people to come away learning something, and also having had a good time.”

Both trivia hosts believe events like these bring in customers that otherwise would not patronize there. They say this is good for local business, and in turn, keeps the money local.

“I take away, at least, that we have a fun community who wants to hang out, meet new people, do fun new things, and that there is a space for anybody to do what they want,” Schumacher said. “If you want to host any kind of event, there are spaces for those things to happen, and there are people that are going to show up.”

Trivia is held at The Duck Inn Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m., and at The Goods Wednesdays at 6 p.m.

Hunter Morrison is a news reporter at KDLL