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Every August, the town of Cobh in East Cork, Ireland, starts to look less like a quaint seaport village and more like a playroom ball pit gone awry, as thousands of brightly coloured balls bounce down the cobblestone streets in one of the world’s quirkiest lotteries.

The day before the annual Barack Hill Ball Roll, held this year on 5 August, eager participants can buy the plastic red, green, blue, and yellow balls for two euros each at local shops. Each ball is numbered, and on the day of the ball roll, everyone throws theirs into a gated pen, which is then taken up to the top of West View, the town’s steepest street.

The street, nicknamed “The Deck of Cards” due to the closely stacked row of brightly coloured houses running along it, becomes quite the sight as nearly 7,000 balls race their way to the bottom.

The owners’ of the four balls that cross the finish line first take home cash prizes. Started in 2006 as a charity fundraiser, the lottery has now grown to a full day of events, including a family scavenger hunt and the “Big Ball Uphill Challenge”, where teams of two must relay large exercise balls up the hill instead of down.

Proceeds from the event go to Brainwave Ireland, a non-profit for epilepsy and cancer research at a local hospital.

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