Starting in 1994, Trivia Bowl has been AAJA-LA’s signature fundraiser and competition. Proceeds from the event — held every year but one since then — support the chapter’s scholarship, internship and professional development programs.
In its early years, Trivia Bowl was conducted as a low-budget, low-tech, minimally planned local chapter event. What started as a modest, somewhat whimsical effort has matured into a popular community experience in “fun-raising,” to use the term preferred by Denise Poon, Los Angeles Chapter president emerita and one of the prime movers in making our event the success it is today.
Local media companies, corporate sponsors and community partners join us every year to support AAJA-LA and to continue their often heated, but usually good-natured, cross-town rivalries in the game itself. Traditionally, teams have consisted of 10 to 12 players. Team members collectively try to answer 20 questions in each of five categories: current events; history and geography; arts and entertainment; science and literature; and sports and California living. A perfect score is 100 points, which no team has yet achieved.
That inaugural competition in 1994 took place at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center in Little Tokyo in downtown Los Angeles. The event brought in $2,200. Early on, as few as five teams competed (Trivia Bowl III), but typically eight to about a dozen groups took part. The emcee back then was Mario Machado of Channel 2, and scores were tabulated on a chalkboard.
One year, the competition was held during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in a ballroom at the downtown Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites. To mark AAJA’s 20th and 25th anniversaries, at Trivia Bowls VII in 2001 and XII in 2006, the chapter arranged with its generous host, KABC 7, to hold super-sized events at the station’s studios, with about 50 teams competing.
Trivia Bowl has since made the beautiful Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo its more or less permanent home, with the event being held there from 2002 to 2005 and again in 2007. Each year, 22 teams have filled to capacity the George and Sakaye Aratani Central Hall.
The event has evolved to include a raffle and live auction in addition to the game. Gone are the chalk and blackboard used for scorekeeping. The quiz master and his scorekeepers these days use a laptop and spreadsheet to tabulate the results and PowerPoint to display them on a large projection screen.
KABC 7 news anchor David Ono has taken over the emcee duties. A perpetual trophy, dubbed the Rice Cup, is awarded to the champion. (Though one tradition that has never changed is to award the team with the lowest score a case of instant ramen.) We’ve also come a long way from the days of serving munchies and sodas. The event is now catered by Wahoo’s Fish Taco — one of our most generous benefactors and partners in recent years.
Who will be crowned the next Trivia Bowl champion and earn the respect and accolades of their competitors and peers? As the cliches go: Stay tuned, and let the games begin!