RED BUD, Ill. – Only a week since it was learned one of three winners in the $656 million Mega Millions lottery bought their ticket at a local convenience store, things in the town of Red Bud, Ill., have only now begun to calm down. Although the mob of media that descended upon the quaint rural town of 3,700 left days ago, the question of who’s holding the winning $218 million ticket still remains.
“The winner hasn’t come forward yet and nobody has any idea who it might be,” said Denise Metzger, store manager of the MotoMart convenience store where the ticket was purchased. “The rumor now is that the winner is a woman, but no name has been mentioned.”
Metzger and her eight fellow employees have happened upon a little unexpected money, as well. On Thursday the store’s parent company, FKC Oil, received a $500,000 check from the Illinois Lottery as a reward for having sold the winning lotto ticket. In turn, the company has given its Red Bud store employees $50,000 to be divided nine ways.
“Each of us will be getting around $5,500,” said Metzger, who said she has begun noticing a marked return to normalcy in the small farm community. “The morning radio talk shows have still been calling me for interviews all this week. I’m pretty busy each day from 6 to 9 a.m.” Seven days after the winning numbers to the largest lottery prized in the nation’s history were revealed, the main topic of discussion around town is still, “who’s the winner?” Most every customer coming into the MotoMart asks if the winner has revealed themselves yet.
Often those same people will turn to a stranger in the store and ask if they might be the lucky one. Although the question is asked with a lighthearted laugh, the curiosity is real. The residents of Red Bud are ready for the answer to this multi-million dollar riddle.
The McDonald’s in town is a popular gathering place for the locals to enjoy a quick meal and visit. All this week the discussion, like everywhere else in Red Bud, has centered on the identity of the local lotto winner.
Barbara Rankin, a McDonald’s employee, said, “Since last week everything’s been stirred up. Everyone’s excited, but nobody has any idea who the winner is. We all want to know, though.”
There’s a kind of electricity one can still feel when walking around town. Locals unknowingly display an attitude of anticipation that is almost palpable. If it turns out that the winner of the mega millions is a truck driver who bought his ticket while passing through town, it will undoubtedly be a letdown for those living in and around Red Bud. Almost worse, however, would be a local winning the $218 million who people thought “already has plenty” in this economically depressed area of the state.
There are more than a few people in Red Bud having a hard enough time making ends meet. Many people in town have lost their jobs and homes. One of the busiest places in town these days is the local food pantry.
“Even after a week, this is still a huge deal for Red Bud,” said Metzger. “There’s not very many in town that couldn’t use the money.”
Kevin R. Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010, ext. 114 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.