FAIRLEA - In Pat McCauley's lap were dozens of scratch-off lottery tickets. She'd spent $100 on them and won $99.
"So I'm pretty much breaking even," she said, sitting in the shade of a tree at the West Virginia State Fair, sticking mailing labels to the back of her losing tickets in the hopes of pulling a second-chance win.
She wasn't disappointed and said she probably wouldn't have been even if she'd lost more than a dollar. McCauley had come here, to the West Virginia Lottery booth at the State Fair, to play the lottery, sure. But it wasn't so much about the money - it was about the experience.
McCauley can buy scratch-off tickets at home in Hot Springs, Va. (and often does). But it's not the same as doing it at the West Virginia State Fair, with hundreds of other people. That's why she makes the hour-long trip from home to Lewisburg every year, to spend a few days at the state fair, buying and scratching off lottery tickets.
"You have a chance to win big money, and that's fun," McCauley said. "That's why I come."
She's not the only one who makes a trip to the state fair specifically for the lottery - and she's certainly not the only one who plays there.
Each year, during the 10 days the West Virginia Lottery is operating a booth at the fair, it becomes the largest retailer in West Virginia for the entire month. Lottery spokesman Randy Burnside said that last year sales exceeded $270,000.
The reasons for that are one part aggressive marketing strategy for the lottery at the fair, one part enthusiasm for the fair and the prospect of winning money there.
When you buy a scratch-off lottery ticket at the state fair, you can win in all the normal ways you normally can - say, by uncovering a heart symbol next to a dollar amount, or matching two different types of dog bones.