With a bit of drama Tuesday, lottery chief Tom Shaheen whipped away a towel and revealed a new logo for the state's $1 billion-a-year lottery.
A roomful of people at the lottery commission meeting stared, for the most part, in puzzled silence.
They studied the boxy blue and green figure, billed as the symbol of the state's games. It would be on posters. Billboards. Tickets.
Finally, Jim Woodward, a lottery commissioner and former chancellor at UNC-Charlotte, wondered about its dominant feature: streaks of green billowing out amid colorful stars. "Does the plant symbolize anything?" he asked.
Shaheen dropped his head.
"It's fireworks," he said.
"Oh," said lottery chairman Charles Sanders, "I thought that looked like a palm tree, myself."
The commission had just agreed to hire a full-service ad agency for the lottery, but Shaheen said his staff designed the logo. He liked it.
His staff said it depicted an exciting explosion of fireworks against what might be a blue sky.
But by the end of the day, the lottery had scrapped the logo, and officials wouldn't release any image of it, despite protests by lawyers for The News & Observer that it is a public record under state law.
Lottery spokeswoman Alice Garland said a check of trademark and copyright issues had brought bad news: They can't use the image.
Why? The artwork was borrowed — from a source of stock images familiar to kids, grade school teachers and desperate neighborhood newsletter writers.
"We used clip art," she said.