Northerners flock to Fort McPherson as Chase the Ace prize reaches $98K

People are flocking to Fort McPherson, N.W.T., from all across the Beaufort Delta region for a chance to take home a Chase the Ace jackpot that’s swelled to more than $98,000. The fundraiser is being held to raise money for the Peel River Jamboree, which takes place each spring.

Dozens of trucks lined up for the ferry into town Friday, but nobody won the jackpot

Trucks line up to take the ferry across the Mackenzie River to get to Fort McPherson on Friday for Chase the Ace. (Submitted by Lawrence Norbert)

Sierra Daley says she's never been involved in something this big before.

At one point on Friday, she said, there were about 52 trucks lined up to take the ferry into Fort McPherson, N.W.T.

They're all vying for a chance to take home a Chase the Ace jackpot that's swelled to more than $98,000 — a prize so big, it's drawing people from all over the Beaufort Delta region to the hamlet of less than 800 people.

"Those lineups started like, well before 2 o'clock in the afternoon," said Daley, who is on the Peel River Jamboree committee.

She sells tickets for Chase the Ace with other volunteers every Friday afternoon, in order to raise money for the annual spring event. Money raised will help buy prizes for the jamboree, which typically involves games and snowmobile races.

"Every 45 minutes or every hour-ish we'll get an influx of people, and that's how we know that there's another round of people that just came off the ferry and made it into town to come and buy tickets," Daley said.

"It almost feels like carnival time."

Trucks leave dust in their path as they head to Fort McPherson, N.W.T., on Friday to buy tickets for a Chase the Ace jackpot that's now grown to more than $98,000. (Submitted by Lawrence Norbert)

Tickets go for $5 a pop, with one third of ticket sales going into the jackpot. Another third of the money goes to support the jamboree, while the final portion goes toward a consolation prize.

In order to win the jackpot, the person whose ticket is drawn on Friday night has to correctly choose the ace from a series of cards laid out face down in front of them. If they don't pick the ace card, the jackpot continues to grow, and that person takes home a consolation prize.

This past Friday, someone walked away with a $25,883-consolation prize after their ticket number was drawn but they failed to pick the ace out of a handful of cards, said Daley.

With the stakes so high, the RCMP have been lending organizers a helping hand, storing the money in a safe place following the draw.

Daley isn't sure just how many tickets were sold this week, but she said organizers went through several rolls of tickets.

A case of eggs?

The Chase the Ace fundraiser started last September, Daley said.

At the time, "it was just a handful of people from town buying tickets," she said.

Now, everyone seems to want in — except for maybe one person.

Irene Kendo, an elder from Tsiigehtchic, wondered what all the fuss was about when she misheard the expression "Chase the Ace."

"I didn't want to spend my money to [buy a] case of eggs," Kendo said.

"I was thinking to myself, gee … I got two [cartons] of eggs in my fridge [that] I don't even eat, and why should I buy tickets for that? … I'm all by myself! Next thing they told me it was gambling."

Kendo said she looked down the road in Tsiigehtchic one Friday and realized everyone had left town.

A boat travels down the Mackenzie River as trucks coming from Inuvik line up for the ferry, near Tsiigehtchic, N.W.T. (Submitted by Lawrence Norbert)

"[I] was thinking, 'Where the heck was everybody?'" Kendo said. "Everybody went for that ace in McPherson.

The next Chase the Ace draw is expected to happen in Fort McPherson on Oct. 12.

With files from Lawrence Nayally


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