INVERNESS, N.S. — A game of Chase the Ace that has lasted almost a year in a small Cape Breton town finally produced a winner on Saturday, making a retired Nova Scotia woman a millionaire.
Donelda MacAskill, 62, of Englistown, N.S., picked up the ace from three face-down cards on a table in the arena where the draw was held and won the $1.7 million jackpot.
MacAskill used to run a tour boat company but is now retired. She said she would share the money with her husband John and three grown sons.
She also said the money will help as her husband has been undergoing treatment for cancer.
Thousands of cars lined the streets of Inverness on Saturday, where people headed to one of three venues selling tickets for a jackpot
Lineups were long at the Royal Canadian Legion, the local hockey arena and an outdoor concert venue known as Broad Cove, north of the small town as the grey sky occasionally opened up to offer a heavy downpour.
Inside the arena, a local rock band performed before former premier Rodney MacDonald took the stage, fiddle in hand, to entertain more than 1,000 people with traditional jigs and reels.
Many ticket holders could be seen signing their names on stacks of colourful tickets, while others simply sat with their neighbours and gabbed as the music played on.
Jacqueline Pygiel from Sambro, N.S., said she has been coming to Inverness every Saturday for the past five weeks.
“Inverness has been doing such a great job,” said Pygiel, sitting with a few friends on lawn chairs at the arena. “We keep coming back. And we’re chasing the million. That’s another reason.”
She said the allure of big money is powerful, but she said the people of Inverness have been happy to see so many strangers.
“Everybody is smiling. The atmosphere is great. They have great music. It’s well run … But everybody here wants to become a millionaire.”
Don Pottie travelled from River Bourgeois, N.S., for the event.
“I heard about Chase the Ace since its inception and I wanted to experience the crowds. And I’ve got tickets.”
What if he wins?
“The family would be first, for sure and we would go from there.”
Looking around at the big crowd in the arena, Pottie said: “I think the lure of the lottery has a lot to do with it. But one thing I’ve noticed is how people are so friendly. There’s no pushing, there’s no shoving, no hustle. Everything is relaxed and good-humoured. That’s tremendous.”
“For this rural community, it’s a binding opportunity to support something.”
The RCMP said they have some concerns about the safety of the participants, many of whom will be carrying large sums of cash.
Chase the Ace is similar to a 50-50 draw with $5 tickets, but there’s a twist. Instead of giving half the ticket sales to the winner, they get 20 per cent. Another 30 per cent is added to a growing pot that can be won if the ticket holder draws the ace of spades from a deck of cards.
The local Royal Canadian Legion plans to split the proceeds from the draw with the Inverness Cottage Workshop, which provides skills training for adults with intellectual disabilities.
Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press