After seeing crowds seven times its normal population turn up for the final Queen of Hearts drawing, the American Legion in Steeleville is making some changes before the next raffle begins.
With a recent $1.5 million jackpot attracting an estimated 15,000 people into the small town, parking, traffic and bathrooms became a problem. Emergency responders couldn't get through, and paramedics couldn't get a stretcher to a woman having a medical problem.
The Steeleville Legion met with Mayor Bob Sutton on Thursday to discuss changes that needed to be made before the next Queen of Hearts raffle could begin.
"It becomes a strain on the town, but as long as organizations and villages can work together to solve problems, then I think it's a workable situation," Sutton said.
Legion officials could not be reached for comment Friday.
Because a raffle jackpot can only reach a certain amount under city ordinances, Legion officials announced it was guaranteed that there would be a winner April 19. Cars were parked along every street within walking distance of the Legion.
"They were overwhelmed with the last one," Sutton said. "When you have $1.5 million out in one night, it brings in an awful lot of people."
Because of a lack of portable bathrooms outside, Sutton said people started urinating in the town's cemetery instead.
The Legion also agreed to:
- Move the ticket line out of the main hall.
- Keep people outside farther away from the Legion's front door and closer to the park, so people can get in and out more easily.
- Maintain more strict parking regulations.
- Block off the back side of the building so officials can access it.
Although the event was overwhelming in some aspects, it had a clear benefit for the community, Sutton said. The library raised more than $3,000 from parking fees, which was then matched by Iron Ford in Sparta. The entire $6,000 went back to the library.
The Steeleville cross-country team and science club also raised money by charging visitors for parking, Sutton said.