Holdingford, Minn. — The Minnesota Lottery couldn't have planned this any better if they tried -- 15 school cooks and one lunch room custodian from a tiny, central Minnesota town end up the state's newest millionaires.
The group of lucky women are overwhelmed by the attention they've gotten over the past few days. But that didn't stop them from having fun at a news conference in the school lunchroom.
"It's awesome," said one lottery winner. "It's great," interrupted another. "Unbelievable," blurted out a third.
And there was lots of laughter during the predictable jokes about Holdingford being the only school with million-dollar cooks, working in the cafeteria.
The lunch ladies at Holdingford have bought two tickets a week for 14 years. Finally, last Saturday, their patience paid off. Their randomly selected numbers came up as winners.
They didn't spend much time talking to the media. They donned their hairnets and got back to work. Millionaires or not, they had to make tacos for 900 students.
At least one of the 16 winners has plans to retire right away. The others say they love their jobs and they'll stick around, at least for a while.
Doreen Platz is running a bread cutter and says she's dedicated to this job. She's only taken one sick day in seven years of work. But now she says it might be time for a vacation with her husband, if he can pull her away.
"Actually, to tell you the truth, we haven't been away overnight in last 20 years," Platz says. "So I think we may take a short trip, I think we would. I'm kind of looking forward to it, but I don't want to miss school. So maybe we'll go in the summertime."
Another one of the winners, Barb Nelson, runs a dairy farm with her husband outside of town. Because milk prices have been low, making a living has been tough.
Nelson says her lottery winnings mean they'll be able to make some improvements on the farm. "Remodel the barn maybe," Nelson says. "We don't know. We just think maybe we want to farm, (and this means) we can do it now. If something better comes along we don't know. We are going to seek out a financial adviser and go from there. My husband is home making a lot of phone calls now."
Lottery winner Alice Kobylinski is hard at work in the back of the kitchen. She's just your typical millionaire, bagging up school lunches. Kobylinski has spent the last few days thinking hard about what she'll do with her prize money.
"I was really actually upset almost -- kind of worried," Kobylinski says. "And then I went to bed, and got up at three in the morning and I had a smile on my face, and I think, 'I'm OK, it'll be fine.'"
Kobylinski says now that she's worked through her worries, she's decided to take a trip to Alaska, and build a new house. The 16 women say they're relieved that no one in Holdingford seems envious over their big win.
Farmer Cyril Ebnet stopped in at the Korner Mart in Holdingford. He has nothing but good things to say about the lottery winners' luck.
"At least it's families that can use it, that I'll say," Ebnet says. "If they didn't have to work they wouldn't be up at school, you can look at it that way. It went to good people that deserve it, that's for sure. I wish I was one of them."
Ebnet has a dozen scratch lotto tickets spread out on the counter in front of him. None of them are winners, but he's hoping that last ticket will make him rich.
"Should be a winner coming pretty soon now," he says as he scratches the last ticket. "I'll show you." Ebnet won $3.
The 16 lottery winners at Holdingford High School say they should get their first payment within two weeks. If they take it as a lump sum, they'll get $2.1 million, after taxes.
They could also opt for the payment plan, which works out to $134,000 a year for 30 years.