Group quiz nights popping up in Nevada County |

Group quiz nights popping up in Nevada County

Christopher Rosacker
Staff Writer

Question: What Northern California county has a sudden surge of interest in group trivia events?

Answer: Nevada County.

Following up on the success of Quiz Night on Tuesdays at Nevada City's The Curly Wolf espresso house, a second weekly trivia event is poised to debut Jan. 27 at Smiley Guys Smokehouse in Grass Valley.

"It is wonderful to host entertainment for the community," said Jesse Cohen, Smiley Guys' owner and manager. "There aren't enough events in Nevada County where people can gather regularly for good, clean fun."

The two weekly quiz nights come as the annual Brains of Nevada County charitable fundraiser approaches March 15, which has had more teams participating every year since its 2002 inception.

"I think this year is going to be bigger," said Janet Cohen, Brains of Nevada County's quiz master (not related to Jesse Cohen), "We are going to move things around so we can get more people in because people want to play."

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While production and specific questions change, the format is essentially the same for all three events. People form teams and compete against other teams to answer the same questions. The team that answers the most questions correctly wins.

"I honestly didn't expect it to be so popular," said Zoey Toffaleti, quiz master at the Curly Wolf since the trivia night's October 2013 inception. "It has been really wonderful to see how many regular teams we have."

The Curly Wolf is packed wall to wall Tuesdays with extra chairs brought in to accommodate players answering the nightly 21 questions.

"I'm not really committed to the same team every week. I like to float and play with different people," said player Max Norton. "Some people have very established teams."

Hilary Hodge, a Grass Valley resident who frequents the Tuesday trivia night, will be the quiz master at Smiley Guys Mondays. She said the Monday night contests are meant to supplement the Tuesday games, not compete with them.

"There are a number of pub quizzes in Sacramento," said Hodge — who moved to Nevada County from Midtown Sacramento after attending the University of California, Davis — in a statement. "I think that Nevada County residents are well suited for pub trivia because our county is full of spirited intellectuals."

Both events are open to the public and hosted at all-ages venues.

"If it were my choice, Nevada County would have a trivia night every night," Toffaleti said. "I miss being on the other side of trivia, and I'm excited to have a quiz that I can compete in."

The Monday quizzes will consist of 30 general knowledge questions on a variety of different subjects and one tie-breaker question, Hodge said. Each right answer will be worth one point. The answers will be recorded on a score sheet and then tallied by the quiz master at the end of the game.

"I want the questions to be well rounded," Hodge said. "There will be something for everyone. The subject matter will change from week to week."

Norton said the two quiz nights will offer different atmospheres, as the Monday event in Grass Valley will be more pub-style quiz nights, which Janet Cohen said are popular in her home country of England. The Tuesday event in Nevada City is hosted at a coffee shop.

Toffaleti and Janet Cohen share the same trait of good-natured enforcement of the rules, as sometimes things can get competitive.

"Please don't cheat using any technological devices or books or coins or anything," Toffaleti joked Tuesday. "And make sure you pay two dollars if you are participating in trivia night."

Prizes vary, too. In addition to winning a $2 per person pot at Tuesday's Trivia Night, Curly Wolf owner Joshua Henry most recently dropped in four passes to Nevada City's Magic Theatre.

At Brains of Nevada County, the winning team gets a trophy and a year's worth of bragging rights (and the losers carry a year's worth of shame). But funds from the entry fees for Brains of Nevada County raise money for the Laura Wilcox Scholarship Fund.

Wilcox, the 19-year-old daughter of Amanda and Nick Wilcox, was shot and killed by a mentally ill gunman in January 2001 at the Nevada County Department of Mental Health, where she volunteered while on break from Haverford College. Her death spurred the creation of Laura's Law, which allows courts to compel individuals with severe mental illness and a history of arrest or violence to stay in treatment as a condition of living in the community.

"It's bittersweet to have fun, but we're raising the money for something very serious," Janet Cohen said.

"People look forward for it every year," she also said. "It's become a tradition. People get to see their friends, win the trophy and have a good time. It's much more than just a quiz."

Hilary Hodge contributed to this report. To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email or call 530-477-4236.


WHAT: Pub Trivia

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. on Mondays starting Jan. 27

WHERE: Smiley Guys Smoke House, 131 Joerschke Drive, Grass Valley

Cost: Free


WHAT: Trivia Night

WHEN: 8 p.m. on Tuesdays

WHERE: The Curly Wolf espresso house, 217 Broad St., Nevada City

Cost: $2 to play


WHAT: Brains of Nevada County

WHEN: March 15

WHERE: Nevada County Fair Grounds

More info: Contact Janet Cohen at 530-265-5770 or at

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