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REFLECTIONS: Wintario had deep connections to Perth County

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Wintario was the first lottery game offered province-wide by the Ontario Lottery Corporation. Starting in May of 1975, it was conceived by the government to raise money for worthwhile community projects. The first draw was held at the Ontario Science Centre, in Toronto, on May 15, 1975. In October of 1975, Wintario became a regularly televised event on Global, and it was initially hosted by Fred Davis and Faye Dance.

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Cities, towns and villages from across Ontario would apply to host the show. After all, who wouldn’t want the free publicity? The community would create a video to promote itself, its history and local sites. Often, entertainment by local talent would be included. Wintario Grants funded nearly every Ontario recreation centre, arena, theatre, art gallery, museum or local non-profit group. Draws would be held in theatres, high schools, recreation centres, arenas and other unique places, such a barn in Varna, or on the ferry MS Chi-Cheemaun docked at Tobermory.

Wintario visited a number of communities in Perth County, kicking it off with a visit to Stratford in January of 1976. The Beacon Herald covered the event:

‘For $1, it was a bargain. Most of the 2,000 spectators at last night’s Wintario draw at the Festival Theatre found the show well worth the $1 admission. First, came the hour-long concert by The Peaches, a trio of young blonde sisters with songs that had something for everyone. Randy Lotz, 15, of 26 Dorland Dr., thought The Peaches were great.

“Originally we came tonight for the draw and because it was something new happening in Stratford,” he said. “We had never heard of The Peaches before but we sure have now.

“Their Elvis Presley stuff was great. I like all their rock and roll…”

At the end of the concert, the audience wanted an encore but, with the draw scheduled for live television at 9 p.m., there was no time.

Everyone seemed to have at least one ticket and everyone had brought them along to check as the winning numbers were read out. Over half the audience stayed in their seats during the intermission watching with interest as the stage was prepared for the live broadcast.’

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In the photo, Dale Bast is seen pushing the button on the activator, held by Faye Dance.

Wintario would come to Stratford many more times. In 1988, it visited twice, once broadcasting from Central Secondary School to kick off the city’s annual celebration of Shakespeare’s 424th birthday. The second time it broadcast from the Stratford Coliseum where viewers were entertained by the Listowel District Secondary School Choir. Also, in 1988, Wintario visited Shakespeare where it was broadcast from the Shakespeare and District Optimist Hall. The Milverton Kinsmen were successful in bringing Wintario to their village in October 1984.

There were also quite a number of local winners from all over the county. Many won the grand prize of $100,000, while many more won a bonus prize of $10,000. Just counting the articles that exist in the Stratford-Perth Archives Wintario newspaper clipping file, there were 10 $100,000 winners in Stratford, with an additional 11 $10,000 winners. The headline of a 1985 win read: “Pirates company finds treasure: will share $100,000 booty.”

The 44 members of the Stratford Festival production of the Pirates of Penzance split the prize, each taking home $2,273. The $100,000 prize was also won in Listowel, St. Marys, Sebringville and Milverton. There might be more, but one would have to comb the newspapers to find out.

It was the local communities that really benefitted from Wintario. The grants are too numerous to list, but organizations large and small received a share. Looking at just one small example reported in the Beacon Herald over the run of the lottery, we learn that $45,558 was given to recipients in Perth County in October of 1976. The largest grant went to the Stratford Lawn Bowling Club for the construction of its clubhouse. The Township of Elma received $10,000 to strengthen the Monkton Community Arena. The Mitchell Golf Club received $9,150 for its irrigation system. The Listowel Rifle and Revolver Club received $6,000 for construction of a facility for recreational shooting. The Kiwanis Club of Stratford received $4,000 for Anne Hathaway Park. The Mitchell Public Library received $2,000 for purchasing books. St. Marys Minor Ball received money for equipment, as did the Rotary-Y Hockey League in Stratford. Stratford Minor Ball received a grant for $1,000 for a videotape player for coach and player development.

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No matter the need, money was granted, provided the applicants could match the sum. It was a sad day, in 1990, when the government chose to discontinue Wintario and the much needed, and appreciated, community support.

Stratford-Perth Archives is once again open for in-person research by appointment. Service by phone and email so you don’t need to come in is still an option. But, if you’re ready, please contact us to set up appointments to use the collections or to meet with the Archivist to discuss possible donations of archival material. We can be reached at 519-271-0531, ext. 259 or archives@perthcounty.ca.

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