Competition Creates Community with DJ Trivia Nevada

Katelyn Welsh reports on how DJ Trivia Nevada began as a small flexible business for a local couple, but quickly turned into helping local restaurants and breweries recover after the COVID shutdowns.

Team Perfectly Cromulent celebrates during a round of trivia at Huntsman Brewing during trivia finals on a Sunday night in Midtown Reno. Photo by Katelyn Welsh

Round One: How it Started

Nine years ago at a conference, Vicki Musni turned to her husband and said, “Reno needs this.” “This,” being a family friendly community creating trivia organization. DJ Trivia is a nationwide company that provides a community business model for doing just that.

Prior to DJ Trivia expanding to Nevada through the Musnies, trivia could only be found late at night in Reno dive bars. Musni had a vision to provide this family friendly alternative in restaurants where the busy nine to five worker or college student could attend and still get a good night’s sleep.

“It was a win for the community,” said Musni, “because it was servicing a piece of the population that didn’t have an option to go do that.”

The Musnies saw value in DJ Trivia’s community driven model, which is designed to create local partnerships with restaurants to stimulate business on slow nights.

“It was set up to create win win win,” said Musni, “A win for us meant that it was a win for the restaurant or bar that was hiring us.”

Initially, it took the Musnies a lot of work convincing local restaurants to partner and provide this trivia alternative. The Little Waldorf Saloon was the first partner to take a chance on the Musnies. After the success there, the momentum began and DJ Trivia now services restaurants and breweries all over Nevada every Sunday through Thursday night.

Team Bubble & Squeak celebrates after answering a question correctly during a round at trivia finals night in Midtown Reno. Photo by Katelyn Welsh

How Trivia Helped Local Businesses and Individuals Recover After Shutdowns

“We were twiddling our thumbs,” said Andrew Tolley, a four year trivia regular as he described the sentiment during COVID shutdowns without his usual trivia nights out.

Unable to provide the usual support for companies and fun for individuals, the Musnies turned to their social media. They created scavenger hunts and “Client Support Saturdays” in which bonus points were given to players who purchased take-out from the restaurants they would have otherwise been playing trivia at.

Musni frequently walks the Reno Riverwalk. Her first walk down the Riverwalk after the shutdowns revealed boarded-up businesses. In tears, Musni said to herself: “these are my people and I am going to ride this storm with them and we are gonna come through this on the other side together.”

Vickie Musni collecting an answer slip while hosting the trivia finals at Huntsman Brewing in Midtown Reno. Photo by Katelyn Welsh

The first night back at trivia after the shutdowns “was a huge sigh of relief,” said Patrick Murphy, a trivia night host. Ten teams participated that night. “A lot of places really needed those kinds of turnouts,” Murphy remembers.

Trivia returning not only jump started recovering from the financial hole many local restaurants and breweries were facing after the shutdowns, but also got people out having fun again.

“People were just desperate to go out and have something to do,” said Musni. “When I opened back up, I felt like I was able to be a part of this healing.”

Andrew Tolley’s team, Smashing Crumpets, working through a question at the DJ Trivia finals. Photo by Katelyn Welsh

The Competition and the Community

“I’ve had teams openly trash talk each other,” said Murphy, as he discussed friendly rivalries creating bonds between teams he hosts. “Trivia is one of the big things that brings people together.”

Patrick Murphy hosting trivia at Silver Peak, which occurs every Thursday night in downtown Reno. Photo by Katelyn Welsh

A Tight Community through Rivalries

“We’ve made friends with other teams,” said Tolley, who laughed and continued with, “then occasionally you have a fight with another team too.”

Tragedy struck the trivia community, when one of their hosts was hit by a drunk driver and passed away. The strength of these rivalry bred bonds became evident when the Musnies and his players, who had become his friends, responded the next week by doing a memorial service at the following trivia night. The Little Waldorf provided a round of his favorite drink. They then played a trivia game in honor of him. Vickie remembers hosting the game and saying, “this is what Jake would have wanted us to do.”

Another incident occurred when a host was assaulted in a parking lot before trivia. The host’s glasses had been taken in the exchange. That night, the players responded by donating enough money to cover an eye exam and new glasses.

“It was a sad situation,” said Musni, “but I think to me it was really indicative of how the community cares.”

The community dynamic doesn’t stop with the players. The trivia staff has a family as well. With family style dinners for their staff meetings, they call themselves, the DJ Trivia Nevada Family. “I lead my team the same way I lead my family,” said Musni.

Initially, the Musnies began this business to free up their weekends so they could be with their children. To their surprise, it has turned into a vibrant, thriving and caring community.

“You can’t plan that kind of stuff,” said Musni. “When you think you’re creating a business that it’s only job is the help a restaurant sell more food on a slow Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday night, you don’t realize at the time, the community that it is going to create.”

The DJ Trivia Nevada Family at the recent trivia finals at Huntsman Brewing. Photo by Katelyn Welsh

Community at the Individual Level

When Murphy first moved to Reno he had been living with depression for 18 years, was strapped for cash and living in a motel. He attributes trivia to helping him be in a better place mentally despite his circumstances.

“This is the positivity and the atmosphere that I want to be around,” said Murphy. “I tell my boss, if I hit the lotto, this is the one job I’m not quitting.”

For Thomas O’Brien, trivia allows him to stimulate his brain. “I look upon the brain as a muscle and if you don’t exercise it, it will atrophy,” O’Brien said. O’Brien’s trivia name is “Pilot” and he often plays solo and wins, a very difficult task. Other players are often suspicious, but he attributes his success to having many life experiences, paying attention to life and getting a good night’s sleep.

Thomas O’Brien winning first place at Silver Peak in September 2021. Photo by Katelyn Welsh

Local British Invasion

Smashing Crumpets and Bubble n Squeak are teams run by Tolley, collectively called the British Food Franchise. These groups consist of Tolley’s friends from soccer. “Since we’re aging we’re needing something to be competitive with,” said Tolley. Not only do Tolley and his friends appreciate having a new competitive outlet, they savor the “little bit of smugness, knowing you’re a smarty pants,” in Tolley’s own account.

With the many benefits individuals enjoy from trivia, the Musnies are proud that their small business created an unforeseen community by simply providing some midweek fun.

“It’s fun to see that we’ve created something that other people get excited about,” said Musni, “we had no idea what we were building when it started.”

Reynolds Sandbox Reporting by Katelyn Welsh

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Reynolds Sandbox

Reynolds Sandbox

Showcasing innovative and engaging multimedia storytelling by students with the Reynolds Media Lab in Reno.