It was Marvin Stapleton
A gripping account by Suzanne Atkinson
Eleven hundred and ninety nine of 1,200 names had been called out. The next one would win a brand new Nissan Kicks in a fundraiser that has anchored the Warkworth Fair since 1955.
With tractors roaring down the track in that other long-standing tradition, the tractor pull, there was a buzz inside the Warkworth Arena.
The Elimination Car Draw had reached its climax.
The eyes of the man sitting beside me were clenched. Then my ears heard what I couldn’t believe.
Anyone who knows Newcastle’s Marvin Stapleton associates him with his squeaky clean, white GMC truck emblazoned with John Deere logos and his constant companion Jazz, a purebred border collie who rides shot-gun. A salesman who travels central Ontario trying to park as much green paint in farmers’ yards as possible.
So when he ordered five $30 tickets from me in the hopes of winning the compact car, I was surprised. He doesn’t need a small car with little room for a dog, I thought.
“I want to win it for my son,” he explained. A fine representative of the Stapleton family and whose penance for being a Hamilton university student is driving 20 year old car.
Stapleton brought a tractor and round baler to Warkworth Fair’s Touch-A-Truck event, watched some of the tractor pull, but his mind was on the draw for the car valued at $26,910.06. It was the first time he had purchased tickets. And if ever there was a man who wanted something bad, it was Stapleton.
He sat glued to an arena chair for hours. Anticipating. Hoping.
“My son just really needs a car,” he said, as name after name, including his own-four times!- was called out by one or another of the local dignitaries over four hours.
When I returned from working at a gate for a few hours, I found Marvin still glued to his chair.
“I’m still in it,” he smiled.
After each 50 names the draw stopped allowing draw chairman Ann-Marie Switzer and her team to be sure nothing was missed.
Then, with only ten names left, she had again halted proceedings.
Crunch time. Only ten names on the board. Only ten tickets in the drum.
There was silence as each sealed ticket was opened, and the name read out. Stapleton closed his eyes, held his breath. And counted them off.
The third last was John Murden. He won the cost of his ticket- $30.
Then the moment that counted arrived as the second last name was announced.
His mother is the past president of the Percy Ag Society which hosts the Warkworth Fair. But no car for him. Just a $200 consolation prize.
I struggled to process what that meant.
“I just won the car,” Stapleton whispered.
But the seconds before George McCleary, a former local public school principal, PAS volunteer, announced the winner of the brand new car, the last name in a long list of 1,200 names, stretched out interminably.
Then the final ticket was held up. A letter opener sliced through the seal. The paper was unfolded.
McCleary, who’s done this before, barely smiled when he pronounced in a voice that boomed through the arena, one that had surely sent shivers through school children in years past: “Marvin Stapleton!”
And Stapleton, who had closed his eyes in anticipation, with the sound of his name ringing in his ears, shed a few tears, and didn’t move, speechless, dumbfounded.
A small crowd clapped as it dawned on them that the guy who had followed the draw all day was, indeed, the winner.
Publicity pictures, hand-shaking, tears and hugs followed, before the lucky winner was finally able to call his son who wept as well.
Each year Warkworth Fair’s Elimination Car Draw attracts sight-seers to witness the draw of those final names. Some years it’s won by people who need it, but seldom has it ever been one by someone who wanted it as much as Marvin Stapleton wanted that 2023 Nissan Kicks.