HARRISONBURG — Ruby’s Arcade is open six days a week to offer recreation like duckpin bowling and air hockey, but on Tuesday nights the venue is transformed into an interactive game show set -- and you’re the contestant.
Bingo is Life is an experience where participants compete in a game of bingo, but that is just the beginning. The winner of bingo spins the wheel of fate and tries to win competitions like paper airplane contests or bowling a strike for prizes. The night starts at 7:30 p.m. and is free to play.
“It’s an absurd humor. It’s weird. People who think they're going to like a normal bingo hall, this is not like that. It's very goofy. It's very silly,” said Chris Howdyshell, co-founder of Bingo is Life.
Tonight’s event is a birthday bash celebrating Howdyshell’s 40th birthday, so the games are wackier and the prizes are bigger. While receiving gifts is a birthday tradition for many, he is giving away unique trinkets he has either collected or made as potential prizes for contestants.
Drew Thomas Johnson was a frequent bingo night attendee before his recent move for family. He said Bingo is Life is consistently a blast to attend and participate in.
“I go there, just there, because it’s a lot of fun. I like their bingo a lot,” Johnson said. “There was always a lot of crowds. I always showed up to play every Tuesday. It’s always a lot of fun.”
The game show was created by Howdyshell and his brother, Mike Howdyshell, two years ago. Together, the two brothers contribute a stream of creativity to the area by playing in the band Dr. How and the Reasons to Live and writing a musical, "The Girl Who Died Most Mysteriously," which premiered at Court Square Theater in 2012.
Chris Howdyshell previously worked with local establishments like Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance to bring projects like the Agora Downtown Market and Ruby’s Arcade to life. Karen Barton, front of house manager and event coordinator at Ruby’s Arcade, said tonight will be busy as folks come out to celebrate a man who has dedicated much of his time and energy to developing the district.
“Chris has done a lot for downtown,” Barton said. “It is so much fun. It's not like any other bingo you could possibly play.”
The event lasts from 7:30 to 9 p.m., but it is recommended that guests arrive early to secure a table. Pale Fire Brewing is sponsoring the evening so brand swag like T-shirts, hats and posters are among the prizes up for grabs, and Pale Fire brews will be discounted.
The Howdyshell duo said they love to provide a unique, family-friendly experience that is accessible to anyone who wants to have a good time.
“It's just an opportunity to do something goofy; have a little fun. It’s a great opportunity to have innocent, goofy fun,” Mike Howdyshell said.