BY VANESSA LANGDON
For Your Niskayuna
NISKAYUNA — Every Wednesday evening, LT’s Grill is full of people huddled around a projector screen hurriedly writing on slips of paper in the hopes of being crowned the trivia winner for the night.
The Nott Street restaurant is currently in the middle of a trivia tournament — ten weeks in and six weeks to go. This is a high stakes tournament: The overall winner, from seven local eateries, wins a $1,000 cash prize.
The weekly event was started at the Niskayuna restaurant in August 2014 by Ally Hornung.
“I played it with a team and I used to waitress at LT’s so I asked him if he thought it would be a good fit and we tried it out and we’ve been doing it ever since,” she said.
Hornung, a biology teacher at Waterford Junior Senior High School, still plays trivia herself at Center Street Pub on Tuesday nights.
“There’s different categories every week, always some kind of audio round and always a visual round as well and still shots of movies and TV and the other five rounds are random,” said Hornung of events at LT’s.
The high-energy competition begins at 7 p.m. and goes until 9.
“It’s not like high-pressure, it’s a fun competitiveness,” she said. “Everyone’s just really in a great mood.”
The infectious mood brings teams back week after week, according to Hornung.
“We really get a mix, there’s a team that’s parents and then their teenaged kids come to play. Teams with people in their early 20s and teams in their 40s and 50s,” she said.
LT’s typically has five or six teams competing each night with as many as 10 or 15 people on each.
One returning team has taken the name “Kicking Isis” for the tournament. The team consists of six to eight people each week but has a core of two dedicated team members.
“He’s always at the bar so I told him we’re always here why don’t we make a team,” said Mel Hewitt of starting the team with Jerry Tomisman.
The pair then reached out to other acquaintances to form the rest of the team but have played some weeks with only the two of them present.
Hornung is the trivia host at LT’s and shares a percentage of her profits with her boss, Scott Mumford. She gets paid by LT’s to come in with her gear each week and entertain.
“You just have to a nice personality, be able to do a bunch of things at one time,” she said of the secret to being a good host.
The current tournament is more than halfway done but still open for people to join in.
“If a team wanted to join now and play out the rest of the tournament they absolutely could,” Hornung said.
The teams involved with the tournament at LT’s are competing against one another to make it on to the finals. There they will compete with the other locations that feature the “Catch the Mania” trivia including Circus Cafe in Saratoga, The Ruck in Troy, Center Street and the Nanola in Malta, The Bayou in Glenville, and Villa Valenti’s Pub in Troy.
The winner of week nine was “Snoppers Lite,” with “Drinking Caps” in second and “Flower Power” in third. There were nine total teams batting for the top spot that particular week.
Members of Drinking Caps take the game seriously, using Post-it notes to share the answer among themselves without giving it away to the other teams. While the competitiveness is palpable, with pensive looks appearing on faces from time to time, the feel of a community is always there as well — the teams helped Hornung with Roman numerals in a clue in the seventh round.
The “Drinking Caps” team is made up of family and friends, according to team member Marilyn Dare.
“We live in the area so we come to LT’s and decided to sign up,” she said.
The trivia nights are one of the busiest, according to L.J. Goldstock, one of the restaurant’s owners.
“Trivia is one of our employees’ favorite nights because they get to inter- act with the customers a lot during the game,” he said.
LT’s used to have its own self-produced trivia nights but that got too time-consuming to do each week. Goldstock has seen many benefits to the newer version.
“I think it’s added a lot for the community, a lot of families come in and play, it’s added camaraderie,” said Goldstock. “It’s a challenge for Ally to keep people interested each week and the staff enjoy the constant people.”
A full list of all the locations offering the trivia throughout the East Coast is available at www.catchthemania.com.
“It’s enjoyable, it’s a fun two hours,” said Hornung. “You learn something new every week — like no one knows everything so it’s nice to see what you do know and learn what you don’t.”