The large pink neon sign outside Piper's Wine & Spirit Barn in Carroll County, about two miles south of the Maryland-Pennsylvania line, showed Lotto Fever had even infected the Yankees.
The two-directional sign screamed: "Lotto $20 million."
"It's been nuts," said Ray Cook, one of the liquor store's lottery machine operators, of the crowds drawn to the record Maryland Lotto jackpot. "We had a man come in this morning and buy $100 worth."
Cook estimated that since the jackpot swelled to $11 million Aug. 3 up to 20,000 people have played the twice-weekly Lotto at Piper's in Manchester. The average sale is $5, he said.
Twenty-five percent of the players at Piper's have come from Pennsylvania (the Yankees), mainly from Hanover, York and Gettysburg, said William A. Chenoweth, the store's owner. Conversely, two years ago, thousands of Marylanders and others trooped north over the Mason-Dixon Line to border towns such as Shrewsbury and Delta in pursuit of a Pennsylvania lottery jackpot that topped $100 million.
"We know our customers," Chenoweth said, adding that Wednesday night many of the license plates on the store's 65-car parking lot were from Pennsylvania.
That night alone, the Lotto line stretched 50 feet from the front of the store to the rear near the beer refrigerators, Chenoweth said.
"The new machine helps a lot," he conceded. "It's a lot faster."
Many Pennsylvania residents pool their money with co-workers and come to Piper's to play the Maryland State Lotto because they believe their chances of winning are better than in Pennsylvania's similar lottery, Chenoweth said.
Still, Joyce Rhoton, 45, of Hanover, holding her $5 ticket, admitted: "My chances are very slim."
Rhoton, one of six people in line at 4:30 p.m. yesterday, said, "If I win, my family never has to want for anything."
Saturday's record money pie surpasses the old $15 million record set in May 1988, and means a single winner will receive $1 million for the next 20 years before taxes.
Since last Saturday, close to 5 million tickets have been sold, said Elynn Garrett, a spokeswoman for the Maryland state lottery. The odds are one in 7 million.
July 3 is the last time one or more players correctly matched the six drawn numbers. The jackpot was $8.5 million then.
Tonight the lottery terminals will remain open until 11 p.m. to allow for late players and to help shorten lines, Garrett said. They will operate until 7:50 p.m. Saturday.
The jackpot reached the record amount when Wednesday's $14 million pot failed to produce a winner.
But Richard and Josephine Patro, both 64, of East Baltimore, came close with their randomly drawn ticket from a Mars supermarket on Joppa and Harford roads.
His wife called him at work following Wednesday's drawing.
"All she said was she had all the numbers except 44. She had 45," Richard Patro, an engraver at the Baltimore Sun, said Wednesday night. "My stomach's been turning."
The numbers drawn Wednesday were: 03, 11, 13, 19, 32, 44.
Garrett said 202 players had five of the six numbers and won $902; 9,085 had four of the six to win $34.
Had he and his wife won, Richard Patro said, he would have retired immediately and "purchased a condominium down the ocean."
Meanwhile outside Piper's, John Cavey, 40, of Manchester, said he's counting on a 2-year-old dream to help him win the record jackpot.
"I really can't remember the dream," he said. "But at the end there was the Lotto and that's when I woke up."