The well-known Lehigh After Dark Wingo event in Lamberton Hall — where students compete in bingo with chicken-wing-covered fingers — traces back to 2017.
Lehigh After Dark’s goal is to host a variety of social nightlife options that do not focus on alcohol, according to the website.
Nick Christy, the associate director for student involvement, said originally, Lehigh After Dark hosted a few random and inconsistent events throughout the month. As a result, Ric Hall, the vice president of student affairs, came up with the idea to create consistent programming every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night.
Following Hall’s request, the Lehigh After Dark planning team began brainstorming different events they could host. Anastasia Cannell, ‘22, a graduate assistant at the time, suggested hosting bingo since it’s a popular game at many bars and colleges.
Another team member threw out the idea of mixing chicken wings with bingo, which is how the name Wingo came to be.
“When we first started out, we didn’t know how it was going to go,” Christy said. “We thought this was a chance because we know that some things that work on other campuses and other areas sometimes don’t translate to Lehigh. Sometimes they just aren’t a big hit.”
But they tried it out and he said it was a huge success.
Wingo quickly became a popular event on campus, prompting the Lehigh After Dark team to consider the frequency of the event after they experimented with hosting it bi-monthly but saw a drop in attendance due to a lack of anticipation.
They then decided to hold the event more often; hosting it on the last Saturday night of every month.
“It’s a good chance to kind of take a break from class stress,” Leia Barnes, ‘24, said. “We know that on this day to get your work done before or get it done after we’re going to Wingo. We eat some food, and we’re just gonna play. The stress can come after that.”
Once Wingo became an established and popular event, the team wanted to see how they could increase attendance and engage additional groups of students.
Christy said they sought out organizations on campus that would be interested in sponsoring the event, which would allow them to promote themselves through word of mouth. This also took some weight off of the Lehigh After Dark organizers, giving campus organizations a chance to run the event on their own.
“I officially ran (Wingo) for my sorority two years ago,” Barnes said. “It was fun. People that attend often know that you have to call them fast and make sure that people are out. You don’t want to spend too much time just waiting around.”
In 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic quarantine, Christy said they didn’t want Wingo to disappear from the lives of students, so they came up with a way to hold the event virtually. He said they worked with virtual amusement companies to host playlist- or movie-themed bingo to keep the bingo component consistent despite the lack of wings.
The ambassadors were able to host Wingo in person again in 2021 but with only 25 people in Lamberton due to COVID safety restrictions.
To keep the event accessible to all who were interested in attending, they would host three sessions of Wingo starting at 7 p.m., each spanning one hour. They used the University Center so attendees could spread out more, and when it was nice out, they used tents to host Wingo outside.
Once the pandemic restrictions were lifted, Wingo officially returned to Lamberton Hall. Christy said Lehigh After Dark now sees about 120 attendees each month.
The winners of Wingo receive prizes from the Lehigh Bookstore, ranging in size and price. The prizes are chosen by a few Lehigh After Dark ambassadors the week before.
“We are given a budget, and go to the bookstore, look around, see what we think people like,” said Lehigh After Dark ambassador Lauryn Holgado, ‘24. “We always get the Lehigh blankets and use those for the last prizes, stuffed animals, kind of whatever looks cute, especially if there is something new in the bookstore.”
Beyond picking out the prizes, Lehigh After Dark ambassadors will often help run the event by checking students in at the door, handing out bingo boards or calling numbers out with the student organization sponsoring that night’s event.
Christy said the ambassadors also enhance the appeal of Wingo from time to time, holding dance competitions or minute-to-win-it games if there’s a tie to keep the night engaging.
He said he believes the success of Wingo can be credited to the nostalgia of playing bingo with friends and family, as well as its accessibility to the student body.
Holgado said she became an ambassador because she went to Wingo every month for her entire sophomore year. She said she was able to find her close friends and like-minded people while simply playing bingo.
“Lehigh After Dark’s goal is to create spaces where everybody on campus can come and meet each other, relax, and connect,” Holgado said. “It’s something that’s an alternative to parties so people who aren’t into drinking can come, but it’s also for everybody and can reach so many people.”