Cow Has Major Role in Theater Company's Mortgage Drama

In what may be a Ventura County fund-raising first, the Santa Paula Theater Company will stage its own version of Lotto on Sunday. It's called Ploppo and involves a cow, a field and about 1,200 people who pay $20 each for a portion of that field.

The field will be divided into a grid containing the number of squares sold--so far, more than 600 have gone--and a computer will randomly assign a number to each square.

"The cow will be released and wander about aimlessly and do nature's calling on the lucky number, I guess," said Jim Gilden, an administrative assistant with the group, which was formed four years ago.

Gilden, who heard about high school students raising money through a similar gimmick, said proceeds from the game will pay off a $24,000 mortgage that the group took out to cover the final costs of a recent $125,000 building renovation.

The person whose number turns up in the winning square will receive a prize of $2,500. The contest will be judged by "a cowboy, a preacher and a gentlewoman," Gilden said.

Earlier fund-raising efforts brought the Santa Paula company the initial $100,000 needed to convert the old Ebell Clubhouse, a 1917 historical site, into a theater.

The event will take place at 3 p.m. It will be followed by a 5 p.m. barbecue and dance; the ticket cost is $10.

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