Reidville's Newfoundland Insectarium marked a milestone this week with the half a millionth visitor walking through its doors.
Lloyd Hollett has owned the insect museum for 23 years, and says he wanted to thank his loyal customers by putting a cash prize up for grabs.
"We wouldn't be here without people supporting us," said Hollett.
The barn-shaped three-storey building, a tourist staple on Newfoundland's west coast, contains a live butterfly room, an ant exhibit that involves tubing strung through two floors and a giant green stick insect.
"We just have a great product. It's great for kids, adults, seniors. It doesn't really matter what age it is. The butterfly garden is magical, everyone has always loved the bee hive and this year we re-did the ant exhibit," Hollett said.
The attraction is used to seeing people from all over the world, but during the pandemic it welcomed hordes of staycationers from the east coast of Newfoundland.
Hollett noted crowds coming from Conception Bay South, St. John's and Mount Pearl.
On more than one single business day this season, over 500 people paid for a ticket, he said.
Hollett, who's meticulously counted every customer since the Insectarium's doors opened in 1998 — including non-paying toddlers — gathered with staff around the front doors Wednesday afternoon, anticipating the big winner's arrival.
"Our 500,000th visitor is going to get a surprise today. Five crispy hundred dollar bills!" he shouted.
Raymond Baker of Marystown walked in with his wife Sheila. She paid for her admission, then the pair immediately found themselves covered in confetti.
Hollett presented Baker with a framed butterfly and a card with five $100 bills taped to the inside. He starred at the card wide-eyed.
"It's wonderful! It's so great. I do not think I've been here before," Baker said.
"We just came down from the Northern Peninsula and wanted to stop in, and today's her birthday."
Baker had not heard of the contest, but he was very pleased with the win.
Hollett was delighted with the surprise.
"We really wanted to mark this milestone," he said.
"I'm closing in on retirement. I'm not going to be here for our millionth visitor. It took us 23 years to get to 500,000."