BOTWOOD, NL — The tables and chairs are set up at the Legion Hall and Kinsmen Club, and the Fire Department has moved out some of their vehicles to make room for people in the garage bays, in anticipation of the influx of hundreds of people for tonight’s Chase the Ace in Botwood.
For the past few weeks, the Wednesday night event has been drawing a crowd.
And with a jackpot of $20,000 and just eight cards left in the deck, Legion president Law Power and local volunteers are expecting anywhere from 500 to 800 people to fill the halls to try for the win.
This is the third Chase the Ace fundraiser organized by the Botwood Legion, and the most successful so far.
The first one they held, the Ace was drawn within a matter of weeks.
The second Chase the Ace, the final prize was $3,900.
The current Ace has stayed in the deck for going on a year — they started this year’s lottery in January — and as a result the jackpot has been getting bigger and bigger.
As the cards in the deck have dwindled, the odds of pulling the Ace have increased, and that’s been drawing crowds to this small Central Newfoundland town.
“We’ve maxed out our capacity at 235 at the Legion,” said Power. "There’s about 250 capacity at the Kin Centre and last week the firehall could hold about 60 people, with one bay opened. This week they’re opening up a couple more bays.”
Power says so far the Chase the Ace hasn’t conflicted with other community events.
The only thing it does conflict with is the local dart night but they’ve found a solution that enables the local dart league to carry on with their game, and still be part of Chase the Ace.
They simply purchase their tickets, then head over to the Lions Club for their dart night.
When the lucky ticket is drawn for a chance to pick a card from the deck, the information is relayed to the Lions Club, as well as the other venues, by phone. And the holder of the ticket has 15 minutes to get to the Legion.
Meanwhile, at the Legion, as hopefuls wait for the 9 p.m. draw, the ticket holders pass the time by playing cards and dice, anticipating a big win.
"It's become a great social event," says Power, "with people meeting up with old friends they haven't seen in awhile, and others just getting together for a social night out."
Traffic will be heavy in Botwood tonight as people head in for their chance to win.
Power noted, “I’ve seen the Legion guest book signed by people from Burlington, Gander and Lewisporte in the past few weeks.”
The growing crowds have created a little extra work for the Legion members and other local volunteers.
When they started this in January, said Power, they’d go to the Legion hall around 6:30 p.m. to set up to sell tickets at 7 p.m. for the draw at 9 p.m.
Now they have to start preparing at 5:30 p.m. and ask the Fire Department to help with crowd and traffic control.
However, the Legion members are not complaining about the extra work involved.
The fundraiser has already helped them purchase some much needed items for their club — like a dishwasher to replace the old one that had been in the kitchen since the 1970s, as well as a new deep freezer.
And with the money they’ve collected they’ve already shared with others; the most recent donations going to the fire departments of Northern Arm and Botwood.
“As a community group our main focus is giving back to the community. There are people who have assisted and been involved in this Chase the Ace since the beginning, and we want to share with them,” said the president.
If the Ace isn’t picked tonight, the Legion plans to continue the game every Wednesday, right through to Christmas. Week 52 would have them still picking from the deck in January, unless someone pulls the elusive lucky card tonight.