NORTH HARMONY - Fill-in-the-blank tests have given students nightmares for decades.
They leave a test taker without a safety net. One either knows the answer or doesn't. Those who don't know get a nauseous feeling in their stomach, write down their best guess and find out they were wrong more times than not.
The participants in the inaugural United Senior Council of Chautauqua County's Senior Trivia Day didn't have that feeling of anxiety Thursday afternoon.
From left, Steve Saulsgiver, Sally Carlson and Joyce Warner are all smiles after working out an answer during the inaugural Senior Trivia Day, held Thursday at the North Harmony Senior Center. The trio made up North Harmony Team 2, which won the event.
P-J photos by Scott Shelters
Judges calculate scores following the first round of Senior Trivia Day on Thursday afternoon. Pictured from left are Office for the Aging Director Mary Ann Spanos, Penny Harvey, Sally Hagg, and Connie Whitman.
Ellen Coffaro, Senior Trivia Day host and United Senior Council of Chautauqua County secretary, asks a question during the first round.
The seniors who gathered at the North Harmony Senior Center had blanks to fill in, but they weren't worried about much other than having fun and the chance to win some cash.
"The purpose of United Senior Council is to provide education for seniors, educational speakers and information about events coming up in the area," said Theresa Perrin, United Senior Council vice president. "We thought it would be fun to hold a senior trivia day because all of us old people, and I am one of them, think we know so much. This is a test of how much we know."
Thirteen teams participated, with up to three members per team. Seniors ages 60 and over from throughout the county competed, coming up with their own team names and answering more than a dozen questions in each of the three rounds.
Team name highlights included the Three Chickadees and Dumb, Dumber and Dumbest.
After making a few brief announcements pertaining to upcoming senior citizen events, Ellen Coffaro, the event's host and United Senior Council secretary, began firing off questions. Teams had one minute to come up with an answer to each question before Coffaro asked another.
Contestants laughed throughout the event, particularly when they couldn't come up with answers.
During the first round Coffaro asked, "What does the emblem on the Pittsburgh Steelers' helmet represent?" She then asked the contestants if they understood the question. One replied, "Yeah, but I'm a Browns fan."
Later on in the round Coffaro asked, "Where did cottage cheese get its name?"
"Were these supposed to be the easy questions?" one contestant replied.
When asked why graves are six feet deep, one contestant said, "So you can't get out."
A participant claimed she wasn't getting the questions right because she wasn't old enough.
"Come on, give me an answer. You're the oldest one," another contestant told her teammate.
Between rounds, judges evaluated answers and Coffaro announced the scores. Participants had their fair share of fun between rounds as well. They socialized and enjoyed coffee and Danish. All of the contestants participated throughout the entire competition. No eliminations occurred.
Perrin, Penny Harvey and Connie Whitman, United Senior Council president, came up with the questions.
"We tried to get questions that dealt with many different things," Perrin said. "We wanted some questions to be harder and some to be easier. The idea is just to have fun. A lot of the senior citizen organizations paid for their members to come in, and if they win they get to keep it. What the senior citizen organization gets is bragging rights. They get to say, 'We're the smartest in the county.'"
Sharon McCreary convinced a couple of friends to join her team. They became the Three Chickadees.
"It sounded fun," she said. "We're having a good time. It's showing us how much we really don't know after all these years."
Steve Saulsgiver, Sally Carlson and Joyce Warner made up North Harmony Team 2. When asked whose idea it was to start the team, Saulsgiver and Carlson pointed at one another. The trio agreed they were having a good time, however.
"It is fun," Carlson said.
"It's things you don't run into very often," Warner added.
Grinning widely, Saulsgiver didn't seem to think the questions were too easy.
"When we went to school, they didn't teach us this stuff," he said. "They just taught us our reading, writing and arithmetic."
North Harmony Team 2 may not have been overly confident in their answers, but the trio won first prize, splitting $100.
Diane Goodrich, who competed as "The Mayville Gal," came home second, winning $75. The Golden Agers - Kathy Stewart, Janet Anderson and Cecele Wilson - took third, bringing home $50.
With positive contestant responses, Perrin believes Senior Trivia Day will take place annually. United Senior Council aims to create enough social activities for aging area residents. Senior Trivia Day is a part of that initiative.
"It's fun to get them involved," Perrin said. "You make new friendships, you meet people and you think, 'Next year I'm going to be there, and I'm going to win.' It's just meant to be fun."
Whitman was pleased with the inaugural event's turnout. She too expects bigger and better things in 2013.
"It looks like everyone is having a good time," she said. "I think that seniors have got to keep mentally active. That's why we tried this. You've got to keep mentally active, socially active and physically active."