Locals pack The Hangar for Tuesday night trivia
Locals pack popular hangout for Tuesday-night trivia, friendly competition
PITTSFIELD — On any given Tuesday night, The Hangar Pub and Grill's parking lot is probably full.
Inside, families enjoy one wing platter after another, a group of friends pour craft beer into their glasses after a day at work, a recreational volleyball team rewards themselves by filling their table with fries and assorted cocktails. But even after the patrons have finished their meals, they linger — and the servers know not to bring them their check. A buzz of anticipation is in the air, as the crowd anxiously keeps an eye on the time.
"Welcome to Trivia at The Hangar!" Brian Flagg said, as one of the many televisions flashed a bright red message announcing the start of the game. The bar became completely silent.
Every Tuesday night at 8 p.m. The Hangar hosts a Trivia Night. Flagg, the emcee at the weekly game, proposed the idea to the bar owners in September and it has grown in popularity since.
"As it is anywhere, it took a few weeks to catch on," Flagg said. "We only had about three teams. The bar got nervous, but I just kept saying, hang in there, it will be fine. Then it started increasing to the point that now it's standing room only. It's been really crazy."
On a recent Tuesday, there were no open tables available by 7:30 p.m., but trivia enthusiasts were happy to stand at the bar — pen and answer sheet in hand. By the time the game started, 18 teams of four or more players had officially signed up to play.
"There is no limit to how big a team can be," Flagg said. "And as competitive as people are, if they see a 12-person team and they only have four, you'll be sure they'll have 12 the next week."
There is a small incentive to earn a top spot in the competition, but most players do so for the bragging rights.
"We give away prizes for the top three teams," Flagg explained. "The top teams get gift cards to The Hangar worth $25, $15 and $10. You would think we were giving access to Fort Knox because people take this so seriously."
The other competition in the room is for the most original team name. Some — mostly families — opt for wholesome, punny choices such as "Ruth Bader Quizzberg," "Hey Siri, What's the Answer?" or "Born to Runner Up." Others take this opportunity to push the envelope with the hope of hearing their ridiculous team names called by Flagg on his microphone. A few — of the ones fit to print — are "Turd Ferguson" and "Mixed Nuts."
Flagg puts together the set of questions on his own.
"It's a unique trivia," Flagg said. "Most places that you go to it's a canned presentation that they buy from an online vendor that emails them the presentation every week. That's what I used to use, but then I started looking at it more carefully and realized that a lot of the questions and the answers were wrong, they were misspelled. I thought I could do this way better and it's not that hard. So now, I develop it myself every week."
Lisa Chretien is a server at The Hangar, but she has also become Flagg's assistant as the game has grown in size. She picks up the answer sheets between each of the seven rounds and then corrects them while Flagg proceeds from one question to the next.
"I look forward to it; it's a blast," Chretien said. "We all crack up over their reactions."
But this is still serious business. Even the most experienced teams struggled to earn a perfect score in each round. Many teams would leave a few of the spaces blank or come up with witty answers, hoping to earn an extra point for originality.
In order to give the most loyal players a chance to win, Flagg came up with a rewards program.
"I've been doing it so long and I have a very loyal crowd," Flagg said. "So, I like to challenge them and see how much they remember. But at the same time, I want to give everyone a chance to get ahead, so I came up with a loyalty program. If you come four weeks in a row, on the fifth week you get 20 bonus points and that fifth week will count towards your next reward. The 20 extra points go a long way to get you into the top three scores that night. You'll see people strategize and change their loyalty schedule so that they have an advantage over the other teams on different weeks."
The rounds varied from history to "identify the automobile manufacturer by the name of the car" to the crowd favorite music round. This particular iteration of Flagg's music round was summer songs. Heads bobbed in the crowd as Flagg played a 30-second audio clip. Then the teams would engage in heated arguments to try to guess the exact name of the song and the artist singing it.
The use of any electronic devices is strictly forbidden. But the teams, and especially the regular players, have become experts at policing each other.
"They even start getting some good-natured ribbing going," Flagg said. "You'll see them start getting there earlier and earlier to get their preferred table. There's really competition on so many levels."
For example, during the random round when Flagg asked "Bar-codes were first used to track and catalogue what?" One of the players from the Zig-Zags team shouted to an older member of the Bald and Beautiful team, "You better get this one right!"
A little after 10 p.m. the game was over. The teams had run through the gauntlet of questions for seven rounds and Zig-Zags emerged victorious with a score of 67 points. The crowd cheered and immediately raced for the door, leaving no trace of the more than two-hour long game behind.
"The way [Flagg] does it is what makes it fun," said John Parkington, a member of Turd Ferguson. "It's what keeps us coming back."
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