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Bidding farewell to Chase the Ace disappointing for some, a relief for residents

The crowds lined up to get tickets on Country Grove cul-de-sac in the Goulds on Wednesday afternoon, and the lineup went back to behind St. Kevin’s high school on the Back Line.
The crowds lined up to get tickets on Country Grove cul-de-sac in the Goulds on Wednesday afternoon, and the lineup went back to behind St. Kevin’s high school on the Back Line.

Six hours before the final Chase the Ace event in the Goulds was to be drawn, the area surrounding St. Kevin’s Parish Hall was already bustling with activity.

Chip trucks and restaurants were hopping serving customers, local musicians were entertaining the crowds of people who had already braved the four-hour lineup to purchase their tickets and others were socializing or relaxing in lawn chairs.

For 44 weeks, people from across the province flocked to the small community on the outskirts of St. John’s to try their luck at getting their number chosen for the chance to pick the elusive ace — with the numbers growing each week.

Knowing this would be the last event drew mixed reaction from those who spoke to The Telegram Wednesday afternoon.

Many didn’t mind the four-hour wait in the five-kilometre lineup and said they loved the party atmosphere, while restaurant owners and vendors were delighted with the increased business the crowds brought.

But for people who live in the Goulds, many are breathing a sigh of relief and say they’re looking forward to getting their lives back to normal, with no more crowds and traffic congestion.

Ron Easton, who was lined up inside the parish hall after a three-hour wait outside, said he looked forward to coming every week.

“Wednesdays are going to be pretty boring after today,” said Easton, who has been coming to the event for the past six weeks.

“It was a bit of excitement. I’m going to miss it, for sure. It’s not going to be the same at all.”

On the parking lot at the back of the parish, Anthony King, his sister Martha Lynch and their brother John King, all of Dunville, were outside a camper peeling potatoes and cooking Jigg’s dinner on an outdoor stove.

“There’s no sense being here if you can’t have fun,” Anthony said, smiling.

Erica Brown, who was sitting on the step outside the building with a friend, said Chase the Ace night has meant, “spending quality time with good people.”

Local entertainer Glenn Downey was busking in the area, playing his ugly stick, with Jeff Keats, who played harmonica.

“It’s been wonderful,” said Downey, who’s playing a one-man show in Renews Sunday. “This is a great bit of fun.”

The two then performed their rendition of “Old Polina.”

Wayne Winsor, who was playing guitar and singing, gave people a wink and a smile as they passed by, some stopping to listen and clap.

Serina Ball, who was on the main road next to the parish selling hot dogs and sausages at a Winky’s cart, said the event has meant some extra dollars for her.

“Oh my God, it’s been really busy every single week,” she said. “But it’s exciting to see all these people having a good time, too. This Chase the Ace thing has been great for all of us. I hope they have one next year.”

Geoff Thistle, owner of Big’s Restauarant on Freshwater Road, said he’s glad he had his truck.

“It’s been pretty crazy every week,” said Thistle, who spoke between serving customers. “It’s disappointing it’s all over after today, but we’ve been lucky because (the ace) could’ve gone a long time ago.”

Peter’s Pizza, across the street from the parish hall and church, opened for the first Wednesday this week, since staff have been on vacation. Flora Mathiudakis was already rushing to keep up with orders.

“This is fantastic,” she said. “I expect it will be even busier this evening.”

Local musician Peter Jacobs used the event as an opportunity to sell his CDs. Jacobs had set up a table by Bidgood’s, but moved closer to the parish this week. He said the six-hour drive from his hometown of Westport in White Bay has been worth it.

“It’s been busy, especially down here,” said Jacobs, who had his music playing through speakers to be heard around the area. “I’ve loved it and I’m sad it’s done. People have been very nice and buying lots of CDs.”

No one is more disappointed than event organizer Carol O’Brien. While she was busy with other volunteers selling tickets in the parish hall, she said she loved seeing so many people come out to support the fundraiser for the church.

“It’s sad, because I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s become such a social event,” O’Brien said. “It’s been a fantastic thing for the church and the whole community.”

But some people who live in the area and have the task of making their way through traffic to get home can’t wait for it to be over.

Amanda Combden, who lives on the main road directly across from the church, said she has to put off plans on Wednesdays.

“I was going to go back-to-school shopping, but we can’t go anywhere,” she said. “We have to prepare for Wednesdays. I made sure I got groceries yesterday.”

Just a few houses down, Michael Noftall said the event has disrupted his life every week.

“Getting in and out of here on Wednesdays has been impossible,” he said. “It takes me an hour-and-a-half to get home from work. I had an appointment last week and it took me forever. It’s a pain.

“It’s really been a nuisance in a lot of ways.”

But like many residents in the area, Combden and Noftall make the best of it.

Combden had family there, many of whom were playing bocci ball on the front lawn.

Noftall also had family and friends there.

“We have a pile of people come up and we have a big, old barbecue,” he said. “Once you get home, you might as well try to enjoy it.”

 

rmullaley@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelyCourt

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