- Associated Press - Saturday, July 18, 2015

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - In what city was the world’s largest pub quiz held on Dec. 11, 2010?

If you answered Ghent, Belgium, you probably already know about the weekly pub quizzes - or pub trivia as it is more commonly known in the states - that are taking place at bars and restaurants in Springfield. But don’t worry if you didn’t know the answer; there’s still plenty of fun to be had for those who enjoy competing in feats of knowledge.

“I’m quite a competitive person, so it’s something that allows me to exercise my brain in a competitive way,” said Kenneth Owen, a professor of American History at the University of Illinois Springfield.

Owen hails from England, the ancestral home of pub trivia. The game made its way across the pond primarily on the winds of economics. Quite simply, pub trivia is good for business.

“I had a friend who played at another venue and they made it their weekly night out. We wanted to attract new people to the restaurant and this was a great way to accomplish that,” said Doug Kent, whose wife Karen Kent is the owner of Burger Bar and Back Door Lounge.

Doug Kent estimates that 50 to 70 people arrive every Thursday night to play in their pub trivia. Of those, around 80 percent will order food and 50 percent have drinks. That’s a booming amount of business on what would otherwise be a slow night.

Keep it interesting

Burger Bar contracts with Trivia Workshop, a local company that provides trivia services for both pub trivia’s and trivia night fundraisers. A typical pub match will be eight rounds of six questions and takes about two hours to complete. First and second place finishers receive gift cards to the hosting establishment, one of the many ways that Trivia Workshop encourages people to keep patronizing the host establishment.

“The third and last place teams each get to pick a topic that will be the subject of a round of questions the following week. They can pick something their team is strong in and that gives them an incentive to come back,” said Russ Friedewald, founder and head writer for Trivia Workshop.

Trivia Workshop currently hosts pub trivia’s at four venues, including Boone’s Saloon, Barrel Head, and its longest-running venue, Norb Andy’s.

When new owners took over operation of Norb Andy’s Tabarin in February of this year, horseshoes weren’t the only thing they kept on the menu.

“The previous owner said that they have a good crowd for trivia. We wanted to keep people coming in,” said Chris Radunzel, who reopened the historic restaurant with Nate Gurnsey.

Marissa DeWeese is a regular at Norb’s for the Wednesday night trivia. In 2008, she was a member of the Springfield High School Scholastic Bowl team that placed fourth in state. She likes playing at Norb’s because of the wide variety of topics that are covered.

“(It) pulls from a wide variety of subject areas, so every person on the team usually has a question or round where they can shine,” DeWeese said.

Mix it up

It’s for this reason that she believes the best teams are the ones that include players from various generations and who have diverse areas of expertise.

“I’m an older pub trivia player, so my preferred subjects are pre-1980s, for the most part,” said Eleanor Jones, a Jacksonville resident who travels to Springfield each week to play at Burger Bar. “My favorite topics include ‘Star Wars,’ ‘Harry Potter,’ literature and anything I know that most other players don’t.”

While a photographic memory and encyclopedic knowledge on a broad range of subjects is certainly advantageous, it isn’t a prerequisite for being a valuable trivia player. Having good analytical skills and the ability to suss out any clues that might be present are also important.

“There’s something that’s very satisfying about being able to work out the answer to a question that you didn’t originally know the answer to,” Owen said.

According to Friedewald, writing questions with answers that can be “figured out” is the key to putting together a good quiz. He demonstrates this technique by rephrasing the question that started this article:

“Known for the treaty that ended the War of 1812, what Belgian city hosted the world’s largest pub quiz in 2010?”

By adding a couple of clues, a team won’t need a pub quiz history buff at the table to get the correct answer. They also can call on their collective knowledge of geography (Ghent is Belgium’s second largest city) and American history (the Treaty of Ghent might be remembered from high school) to make an educated guess.

“Pub quiz isn’t about trying to stump people,” Friedewald said. “A good pub quiz writer writes every question thinking about the audience and the venue. Make people feel dumb and they won’t come back. But you can write challenging questions in a fun and interesting way and that will keep them coming back.”

And that’s also good for business.

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Source: The (Springfield) State Journal-Register, https://bit.ly/1KvTCK4

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Information from: The State Journal-Register, https://www.sj-r.com

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