What exactly is a Tricky Tray?


Ah, the mysteries of suburban life. Who should you call when you find a bee’s nest on a local walkway? Is your bamboo/dog/lacrosse ball bugging your neighbor? What will become of the abandoned Chinese restaurant in town? Among these, a true enigma: the Tricky Tray. I had never heard of a Tricky Tray until a few years ago when I saw a small sign advertising one by the high school. I thought it might be a regional thing, so I asked my NJ native husband about it but he had no clue.

I kind of gleaned that it was some sort of fundraiser, but that was about it. The little sign disappeared and the phrase Tricky Tray stayed just below consciousness in my mind. I’d see it around, but they were always at night and somewhere I wouldn’t usually go and something no one I knew was involved with.

But now, there is a Tricky Tray coming up that will support the senior year activities (prom, senior class gift, senior dinner, caps and gowns for graduation) for the class of 2019. My daughter is in the class of 2019, so it’s time to find out what this is all about.

Tricky Trays are a time honored suburban tradition, popularized in the 1950s and 60s and they are also known as penny sales or dark horse auctions, according to TrickyTray.com (yes, there is one.) A Tricky Tray is an event where funds are raised for a school, church or other organization through the raffling of baskets. Attendees are given tickets as part of their admission price, and they can put these tickets into containers near each of the baskets. A ticket is pulled at the end of the night, and the lucky ticket-holder gets the basket. So there aren’t really trays, and what is so tricky? That it’s not one big raffle? The less certain nature of having a ticket pulled, rather than pledging to pay a certain amount for the item, like in an auction? I’m not too sure.

There are even some Tricky Tray fans. Folks who attend any area Tricky Trays in hopes of winning some cool things (The MHS one will feature so many things — children’s books and toys, local exercise studio memberships and more) and supporting good causes. There’s a great profile of three tricky tray loving sisters from the record online’s archives here .

The other thing to know about a Tricky Tray, or at least the one for the MHS class of 2019, is that guests are welcome to bring their own dinner, and dessert and coffee or tea will be provided.

Here are the details for the MHS Class of 2019 Tricky Tray: It will be held on Thursday, October 19 from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm, at Madison High School, 170 Ridgedale Avenue.  Admission for the event, which includes one sheet of 10 tricky tray tickets, is $25 per person in advance and $30 at the door. Additional tickets for the basket raffle and 50/50 drawing can be purchased at the event with cash or personal checks.  Desserts and refreshments will be served. Guests should feel free to bring food for their table and those attending as a group may reserve a table in advance by contacting madisonhsclass2019@gmail.com.

To purchase advance tickets, please mail a check payable to Madison Board of Education.  Write Class of 2019 in the memo, and send to Helen Eisenberg, 38 Park Street Apt. 10-E, Florham Park, NJ  07932.