Really, it couldn't have ended any other way.
After weeks and weeks and weeks of the pot rolling over, then waiting and getting all the necessary licensing, the Morris VFW Post 6049 Queen of Hearts drawing concluded Monday night. Fittingly, it wasn't until there was only one number left on the board that it ended.
The drawing was scheduled for 6 p.m. But, having been around the VFW during the last two weeks that the drawing was held, I figured I better show up early. I entered the building at around 4:45 and was shocked at what I saw.
Not shocked at the crowd, but shocked at the lack of it. I suppose that had something to do with the fact that no more tickets were being sold. What had been a packed to the gills banquet room was now wide open with plenty of room to move.
I milled around a bit, said hello to a few folks and, like everyone else, waited.
When I walked in, I saw vans from Channel 7 and Channel 2 out of Chicago and Channels 5 and 9 eventually showed up as well. Alex Ortiz of The Joliet Herald-News was already on the scene, and not long after I showed up, so did photographer Eric Ginnard and editor Jon Styf. This drawing had gotten a lot of attention, and its final night wasn't going to go unnoticed.
A lot of the sentiment I heard while walking around was that most folks were hoping that the winner would be someone local. I knew who it wouldn't be. It wouldn't be me, because I had planned on buying my tickets on the original night of the drawing, only to have it postponed and no more tickets be sold.
At 5:30 p.m., the drum holding the tickets was started, mixing up the red, yellow and blue pieces of paper in a primary color cascade of hopes and dreams.
Sergio Lopez of Minooka, a veteran who lost both of his legs below the knee in Iraq, would be drawing the tickets. There were three numbers remaining — 24, 35 and 41. The rules were that if a name and number was drawn, and the Queen of Hearts was not under that number, the person on that ticket would win $50. Since this was a drawdown situation, another ticket would be drawn. If it was the same number as the first, that person would also win $50 and the drawing would continue. This would continue until the number on the ticket uncovered the Queen of Hearts.
The first number Lopez drew was invalid, as it did not have a first name written on it. The second was the number 24, which uncovered the Jack of Clubs. The next ticket also had picked No. 24. The tension kept growing with each ticket. The next one was No. 35, and a new card was uncovered. Six of Clubs. Still no winner of the big prize. Another ticket. Another No. 35. It was starting to feel like we might be there a while. Another ticket. Another No. 35.
The next ticket, though, had the number 41. The card was uncovered and it was, indeed, the Queen of Hearts. The name was announced, but the person was not in attendance. So, the phone number on the ticket was called. No answer, but he did call back and was informed that he was the winner. Kevin Repsel of LaSalle will receive his check soon.
The VFW will continue to hold its Queen of Hearts drawing, but not for a few weeks. Post commander Jerry Zeberowski said that they will take a couple of weeks off and announce on their Facebook page when the next drawing will be. There will be a cap on all future drawings of $1 million, he said. Once it reaches that amount, they will have a drawdown just like Monday night.