|Posted: January 8, 2007, 11:56 pm - IP Logged|
When lotteries began in Ontario in May of 1975, it came at a time when towns and villages did not have the facilities to train its athletes for the 1976 Montreal Summer Olympic Games. Lottery grants (or at that time more commonly know as Wintario Grants) flowed into buiilding community centres, recreation facilities, and promoting sports and recreation. The lottery WINTARIO was the only lottery to my knowledge that took its live lottery draw to the people's doorsteps and drew the numbers live from the community centres they built. In fact, Wintario was the only traveling lottery draw in North America. From there the live-traveling draw-show also pumped money into hospitals, meseums, theatre arts, culture, and anything that needed funding that the government couldn't neccessarily support.
Every Thursday, Ontario Lottery and Global Televison crews teamed up and packed their bags, and traveled to a different Ontario town. The show that lasted 15 years, had traveled the equivalent of 2 1/2 times around the world. At first hosted by Fred Davis and Faye Dance and done on a bi-weekly basis, its popularity grew fast. By 1979 Wintario went weekly and evenutally would be hosted by Faye Dance and Greg Beresford. From Ottawa, Kitchener, Owen Sound, Windsor, Minaki, Hamilton, Peterborough...in all 648 draws done from every corner of the province.
Wintario was a hit because communities applied to host the draws months in advance, and that meant for a 1/2 hour of free publicity on province-wide TV. The people and the towns would be seen. Wintario was so popular, the draws department had applications for draws two years in advance. Some towns applied and didn't have a facility to host the draw...so the town waited for the community centre by Wintario grants to be built and then hosted the draw later. Everybody wanted Wintaio to come to their town. People came out in the thousands to see the live draw. Greg Beresford once said about the town of Little Britain north of Oshawa, "We had 1800 people at the draw and the town is only 1600, where all the people came from we just don't know."
Wintario's claim to fame was that one of the hosts would be stationed in the audience with a remote control device looking for button-pressers. They would have an audience member press the button to release the trap doors on the six Ryo-Catteau machines rolling on stage. Button Pressers could be the Mayor of the town, a high school mascot, a recent $100,000 Wintario winner, a member who preformed in the pre-show at the draw, or Joe Blow off the street. Hosts joked often, "you will have six new friends tomorrow after you press this button".
During the draw, hosts would climb on stage and use their opening remarks to tell viewers at home where they were, why they were there, and what was unique about that place. The draw did three things...gave players access to their games by the public attending and participating in the draw, showed where your lottery dollars went, and it showed that people do win. Wintario was truly "The People's Lottery". Wintario connected the people of Ontario to Ontario. Players had faith in their games and felt proud to buy a ticket. Honestly, people felt proud to buy a Wintario ticket.
They had broadcast from strange places as well. They did the draw from The Metro Toronto Zoo, aboard the M-S Chee-Chee-Maun Ferry from Tobermory to Manitoulin Island, from a mine shaft at Sudbury's Science North, and they even drew their numbers from a barn. There were outdoor draws as well in Kingston, Niagara Falls, and Toronto. Hosts would pray for clear skiies and warded off mosquitos. If the show ever traveled to Cochrane or Moosonee in Ontario's far north, hosts would have to leave Wednesday noon to get to the draw site on time. The other side is that lottery crews and Global crews were a second family. Everyone of them left their families one whole day a week to work on the road with Wintario.
Wintario ended its travels in January 1990, as the province changed the way it spent its lottery money. Lottery money would no longer go into a grants program, but a general revenue fund instead. Meaning the province, could spend the money on the provinical debt, pay off the private sector, or use it for those worthwhile grant projects mentioned above. In other words, it would be unfair to do the Wintario Show when money wasn't flowing in the projects they said they did.
During it's last draw in Sault Ste. Marie, Wintario had pumped nearly a billion dollars into worthwhile projects. No longer would lottery players have the connection to their games they once had. And no longer would we have that inside-look at the many "Wintario" communities. And never again would a lottery draw show travel.
Wintario: May 15 1975-January 4, 1990.
We All Win
*Wintariofan followed Wintario for its 15 years and remains a follower of Ontario's current lottery games