Throwing His Money Around German Truck Driver Wins 100,000 -- and Gives Away 75,000
German truck driver Marco Hilgert, 49, was a bit short of cash, so he entered a radio competition to win €100,000 ($130,000). He won -- by offering to plow €75,000 back into the local economy.
He's chosen an unusual way to divest himself of the excess money. Instead of finding a charity, Hilgert will donate €75,000 of his prize to the general public in Kaiserslautern on Friday by scattering it in the city's Stiftsplatz square.
It all began with a competition on a Ludwigshafen-based radio station which asked listeners the deceptively simple question: "What would you do for €100,000?"
Among the 12,000 answers the station received was one from a woman who offered to have all her teeth pulled out. Another man said he would saw all his possessions in half. A third listener volunteered to take a swimming test in a sewage treatment plant.
But Hilgert clinched the contest with an equally simple, extremely clever (not to mention painless and clean) answer: "I will make €75,000 rain down on Rhineland-Palatinate," the German state where he grew up.
Hilgert had wanted to induce the pecuniary precipitation in the state capital, Mainz, which is also his boyhood home. In particular, he wanted to throw the money out the window of the city hall building.
But then things got complicated. The Mainz city hall turned down his request. A spokesperson told the radio station that the building was air-conditioned, which meant the windows couldn't be opened, which made throwing money out of them rather complicated.
The rejection caused an uproar among the station's listeners. "The telephone hasn't stopped ringing all day," a spokesman for RPR1 Radio named Thomas Reiche told SPIEGEL ONLINE on Wednesday.
Several city halls across Germany got in touch and said they'd be glad to put their windows at Hilgert's disposal. The mayor of Kaiserslautern, Bernhard Deubig, also stepped in to offer the city's Stiftsplatz square for the cash-tossing extravaganza. Hilgert went with that option.
"Something like this only happens once in a lifetime," a dazed Hilgert, who gets to keep the remaining €25,000, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. He and his wife want to put the money into their apartment. "We're a bit short of cash at the moment," he confessed. The money comes at just the right time for paying off their mortgage, he said.
Stiftsplatz square in Kaiserslautern is expected to be rammed full of people Friday hoping for a piece of Hilgert's winnings. The event will be called "Marco's Rain," and it's scheduled to kick off at 10 a.m. But the station has organized things to keep the crowd orderly. Hilgert won't throw the money all at once, for one thing, and the area where the bills might float around will be blocked off, so the eager audience doesn't come to blows. "Otherwise there would be blood and guts everywhere," Reiche said.
The city hall is happy to let the cash be scattered in their town, said Sandra Zehnle, spokeswoman for the Kaiserslautern city hall. She added that the square had been a popular location for watching games during the 2006 soccer World Cup. But with all that legal tender at large on Friday the city will also take precautions. "It's a big event," she said, "and like any other big event the police will be standing by."
With additional reporting by David Gordon Smith.