What would you do if you won $1 million? What if you won $8 million?
Those were the questions two local residents faced after each won King Kong-sized prizes in the New York Lottery in recent weeks.
Ryan Maxwell, a 25-year-old construction worker from Malden-on-Hudson, said his $1 million King Kong Millions game ticket will buy him and his girlfriend a vacation, a wedding and an investment in the future for the couple and their unborn child.
Jie Lin, 36, of Kingston, a Chinese immigrant and restaurant chef who hit the $8 million jackpot King Kong Millions instant lottery, plans to buy a car and a home, and maybe his own business.
The two winners were introduced at a press conference Monday morning at the Stewart's Shop on state Route 212 in Saugerties, where Maxwell purchased his winning ticket. Accompanied by a guy in gorilla suit, Lottery Director Nancy Palumbo presented each of the men with a large mock cardboard check showing their winnings.
Palumbo introduced Lin first, telling the story of how the new multimillionaire thinks he might have thrown away another winning ticket by accident. When Lin realized he might have had a winner, she said, he went to retrieve the ticket, only to find the trash had already been taken away.
A native of Fujian, China, Lin bought his $10 winning ticket from the Petro Sunoco on Ulster Avenue next to the C Gourmet Restaurant, where he works as a chef. Lin typically buys a lottery ticket every week.
"He actually verified with the rest of the family to make sure he won," said Lin's cousin, Chuck Lam, who acted as interpreter. Lam said Lin plans to continue to play the lottery.
With his winnings, Lin may open his own business, but will probably buy a car first, Lam said. He said his cousin also plans to buy a home in the area or in New York City.
Lin and his wife of 12 years, Zheng Lin, have a 12-year-old daughter and another child on the way. Palumbo said Lin was at first afraid to tell his wife about the winning ticket because she does not like the lottery.
Lam said Lin, who has worked at C Gourmet for about two years, came to America six years ago. He said his cousin plans to take a "little break" and work some more before his plans are finalized.
Maxwell claimed his ticket at the beginning of the year. He said he has purchased about four lottery tickets for himself in his life, and only played King Kong Millions after the clerk at Stewart's explained the game to him. Maxwell said he never thought he would win.
Accompanied by his girlfriend, Lacy Kelly, 24, Maxwell said the couple plans to take a vacation and get married. The bulk of his winnings will be invested in the family's future, he said, adding that he will continue to work.
"It seems like a lot of money but when it comes down to it, its not," Maxwell said of his winnings. But he said he is happy to have won the money to invest in the future and provide for his child.
Maxwell said he and Kelly's first worry was what they would invest in, something they still have not decided yet.
Maxwell admitted to making an impulse purchase, a used ski boat on eBay. He said he'd been looking at boats for a long time.
He also purchased a gift certificate to the Land & Sea Grill and Steak House in Saugerties for the clerk who sold him his winning ticket.
"We want her to be able to take her family to a nice dinner," Maxwell said. The clerk, who had previously identified herself only as Althea, was not working at the time of the press conference.
Maxwell was one of five second prize winners of $1 million in the King Kong Millions game, which concluded with a drawing on Dec. 5. The game had a $55 million jackpot.
Maxwell said he learned he was a winner when he requested a printout of the winning numbers. He said it took him about five minutes to realize he was a winner. When he called Kelly at work, she didn't believe him, he said.
Kelly, who is about four months pregnant, said she realized Maxwell was telling the truth when he and his father showed up at her job at the Northeast Center for Special Care in Lake Katrine. She said Maxwell was crying.
Maxwell's winnings will be paid in one lump sum of $681,500, while Lin will receive annual payments of $320,000, before taxes, for the next 25 years. There are still three $8 million winning tickets available in the King Kong instant game, lottery officials said.
The New York Lottery joined with Universal Studios in promoting the King Kong Millions games, which coincided with the release of the movie "King Kong" last month. The promotion had two components, the King Kong Millions game and the $8 million instant game. The scratch-off game has become the fastest-selling $10 ticket ever offered by the New York Lottery, the agency said.