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Waterford families make the most of social distancing with weekly trivia

Waterford — The Devine, Baumgartner, Colonis, Antonelli, Coderre/Tonnessen and Wheeler families sat in a large circle at Harkness Memorial State Park, their lawn chairs clustered by family and surrounding the prize: a trophy made from Clorox wipes, Corona bottles, face masks, toilet paper, a screenshot of a Zoom call, lights, and more, with a Purell bottle standing majestically on top.

Objects have been added over time since the end of March, when eight Waterford families started gathering — virtually at first — for trivia every Friday, alternating which participant wrote the questions.

In June, they shifted from meeting on Zoom to gathering in the grass at Harkness, with families spaced more than 6 feet apart.

"It was really a nice change from crocheting and puzzles," Terry Wheeler said, but then noted that since Kari Ann Antonelli initiated the trivia so early in the coronavirus pandemic, "we weren't bored yet." Wheeler added that the weekly tradition has grown even more important to her than she thought it would be.

Wheeler came Sept. 4 with her kids, Braeden, 13, and Hayley, 18. Braeden was one of several 13-year-olds there, and it was through the class that is now eighth-graders at Clark Lane Middle School that these families became friends years ago.

Kari Ann Antonelli said of the trivia nights, "It started as a way to just keep them kind of in touch, that didn't involve video games."

As many as eight families totaling 33 people have participated, Antonelli said, though some participants have returned to college.

On Sept. 4, six families consisting of 11 parents and 11 kids were at Harkness. The parents included a dentist, police officer, nonprofit leader, yoga teacher and more, and it gives them something to look forward to at the end of the work week.

They gathered at 6 p.m. and ate pizza before starting trivia at 6:30. It was Lisa Tonnessen's turn to write and read questions, since her family won the previous week. Since her husband, Lance Coderre, and son, Remy Coderre, had already written questions for previous weeks, it was her turn.

A psychologist married to a math teacher, Tonnessen decided her first round would be a psychology round and the second "letter equations." (Examples of letter equations: 13 S on the A F = 13 stripes on the American flag, and 18 H on a G C = 18 holes on a golf course.)

She followed with a potpourri/hodgepodge round, and then concluded with one asking families to name what Time Magazine had called the 10 best children's books of all time.

"It might've been too hard tonight," Tonnessen concluded after, but others protested, "It was fun!"

Part of the fun was the jokes made in response to some of the more difficult questions. When Tonnessen asked, "The desire to eat strange things that are non-nutritive is known as what?" (answer: pica), Mark Devine joked, "Pregnancy."

When Tonnessen asked for the most popular girl's name of the 1990s in England, Michele Devine protested, "None of us were having kids in the '90s!" When Tonnessen asked for the height of a baby giraffe at birth, Erica Baumgartner questioned, "How is it they're all the same height? I don't like that. It's weird."

Her husband, Scott Baumgartner, said of trivia nights that it's great to still have a way to connect, and it's something to look forward to every Friday.

Their older son, 13-year-old Cole, said he likes coming to trivia because "I get to see and talk to my friends, because I don't get to do that normally."

Bill Colonis said it's nice to get out of the house and it's beautiful at the park, while his wife, Mary, commented that they don't have too much on the calendar these days.

Their 12-year-old daughter, Lilah, ended up doing a "finish this lyric" round when it was her turn to write trivia questions. Various participants agreed that Scott Baumgartner's G.I. Joe round was a particularly difficult one, and other trivia themes have included "Harry Potter," Christmas and Connecticut trivia.

At the end of the four rounds Sept. 4, the Baumgartners came away as the winners. As pink and orange lingered in the sky on the other side of the parking lot, the trivia players packed up their chairs and headed home until the next week.

e.moser@theday.com

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