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Minnesota Sounds and Voices: Flamingo Bingo in Rochester

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Retired Flamingo Bingo caller Joyce Fortier
Retired Flamingo Bingo caller Joyce Fortier with her electronic bingo device. It does everything including alerting the player to a bingo.
MPR Photo/Dan Olson

Jeannette Fortier stands on a 4-feet high platform equipped with a public address system. The caller at Flamingo Bingo in Rochester almost looks like an evangelist before her flock, seated at tables, a dozen bingo cards spread before each of them, electronic boards and color TV monitors flickering on the walls.

"On behalf of the Rochester Senior Center whose programs and projects you support by your presence here tonight, we thank you for coming," she says to the assembled crowd. "Fire up your daubers everybody."

They clutch their daubers — oversized marker pens — and the game is on as Fortier calls out the numbers.

The qualifications for bingo calling are straightforward, she says. "Speak clearly, show the numbers in the monitor and listen for bingos. And always have a smile on your face."

A nearby player adds still another qualification.

"And you have to have patience. Believe me, lots of patience."

That's Jeannette Fortier's Mom, Joyce.  The 82-year-old was the bingo caller here for 18 years and helped her daughter learn the job.

She says callers need patience, too, because the players can become, well, agitated, when they get close to a bingo and their winning number isn't called.

"People get mad at you.  They call you names and want to throw daubers at you if you don't call their numbers. I get mad at my daughter when she doesn't call my numbers," she jokes.

Jeannette Fortier says, "There's a community here, so when there are older players that we don't see for awhile we are checking on them," she says. Then she returns the joke on her mother. "It's a safe environment to play bingo, and it keeps my mom out of the bar, don't you know."

And it's all for a good cause. The Flamingo Bingo charitable bingo operation in Rochester last year returned $90,000 to its operator, the Rochester Senior Center Foundation.

Click on the audio link above to hear the latest installment of reporter Dan Olson's series, Minnesota Sounds and Voices.