It’s not like Jeopardy, and it’s not even close to playing Trivial Pursuit in the living room with friends and glasses of wine.
There are many of the same categories (music, geography, history, science, pop culture, movies, TV shows, and sports), but the presentation, the nature of competition, great food and drink, and the fact that members of all generations alive in the Friendly City today participate make the Tuesday evening “Team Trivia Night” work well at Generations Restaurant and Pub in the Fulton section of Wheeling.
Team Trivia begins at Generations at 7:30 p.m., and the competition usually extends to 9:30 p.m.
“I’ll admit that I was skeptical when I was first approached, but we’re already in our third year,” said Generations owner Mike Duplaga. “Our phone starts ringing every Tuesday around 1 p.m. because people are calling in to reserve their tables, and now everyone knows everyone based on their team names.
“I really didn’t think that a trivia night would become as popular here as it has since we started,” he said. “Initially, I said we would try it for a month, but as soon as I saw the reaction from our customers, I knew then that we had something here.”
Other Wheeling establishments have attempted to mimic the Team Trivia nights, but those events soon faded away. Why it’s become so popular at Generations is a mystery Duplaga has yet to figure out.
“What’s really weird is that they have tried it at other local restaurants and bars, and it’s failed at those places, and I’m not real sure why,” he continued. “But at Generations we have built the entire evening around the Trivia Night, and we have people from 25 years old to 75, and in a lot of cases they are on the same teams.
“We have always had the pizza and beer special on Tuesday nights, but once we added the Trivia Night, Tuesday evenings have become our busiest evening other than the weekends,” Duplaga explained. “I’m honestly stunned that it has lasted three years, and I pray that it lasts another three years because people really do have fun with it.”
One key to success, Duplaga explained, is the Team Trivia Night host, local musician Jon Banco.
“Jon Banco is the perfect person to host the Trivia Night because of how good he is with the people who attend and how well he presents the questions and the answers,” Duplaga said. “He has been the host from the very beginning, and he’s been a huge part of the success of those Tuesday evenings.
“Jon has been playing music here at Generations for a lot of years, so when we decided to give the Trivia Night a try, he was the first person that I thought of to be the host,” he added. “And the people love him because he’s very personable, he’s really funny, and he does a great job with all of the organization. It works well thanks to Jon.”
Although he sheds any credit for the success of the weekly contest, Banco, too, has been surprised by the level of participation.
“I didn’t know what to think about it at the time I was introduced to it because I was only familiar with what they were doing at BW3’s with the touch pads and the TVs,” Banco said. “The first couple of weeks the crowds kept growing, and now we have a lot of the same teams competing week after week because they’ve added to what they do each Tuesday.
“It’s been a lot of fun for me to watch the teams change through the last three-plus years because there have been teams that have shown up, but these days all of the members are on different teams for whatever reasons,” he reported. “When we first started, I think the average members per team were around six or seven, but now it’s more like 12. And that’s because people have learned.”
And the people are passionate, Banco said, and although one can see smiles and hear laughter during the course of the evening, it is a most competitive atmosphere week-in and week-out.
“The people who attend take it very seriously, and they are there every single week,” Banco said. “As soon as I pose one of the questions, the first thing you see is the lean-in at all the tables, and you can tell by the looks on their faces whether someone knows it or not. That’s the quietest time of the evening.
“It’s really a great crowd, and there’s everything from doctors to lawyers to truck drivers to politicians,” he added. “Everyone knows each other, and they have a lot of fun competing against each other. If they didn’t know each other, they do now. It’s a nice thing to do on a Tuesday night in Wheeling.”
Banco has hosted the Team Trivia program at a few other locations in the Wheeling area in an effort to spread the competition to all corners of Ohio County. The trivia program was initiated throughout West Virginia by Morgantown resident Casey Quinlan in 2012, and to date the weekly contest at Generations is one of the largest in the state.
“I believe one of the reasons it works so well at Generations is because the evening is dedicated to it and because of the quality of food that you get at a locally owned restaurant,” Banco said. “The setup at Generations is great; the people sitting out on the decks can participate because the restaurant’s sound system is a surround system, and Mike has built a great client base since he opened.
“It’s a Tuesday night, and a lot of people have made it something they want to do in the middle of their work week because it’s different, and it’s a lot of fun,” he added. “The food is great, you get a free pitcher of beer with every pizza that you order, and the staff works hard to take care of everyone. It’s a win-win atmosphere, and I’m really happy I’m involved with it.”
Banco offered one “key to success” when it comes to the broad range of trivia questions that are asked each evening. This past Tuesday, for example, one quiz concerned big-league baseball, and another inquired about American presidents and their respective birthdays.
“There are questions that a 70-year-old can answer, but a 25-year-old can’t, so I think it’s pretty important to have people all of ages on the teams,” Banco offered. “There are questions that pertain to history that happened back in the 1920s and 1930s, and there are questions about today’s pop music.
“If I was on the other side of the microphone, I would have a team with people in their 70s, 60s, 50s, 40s, 30s, and in their 20s because that’s how broad the questions have been from the beginning,” he continued. “The teams that have people in all age ranges usually do better than a group of 25-year-olds does because of the range of topics and the years of experience involved, so that’s how I would go about it, and most of the teams have learned to go about it that way, too.”
(Photos by Steve Novotney)