This Week's Contestant
|Theme:||Bed & Breakfast|
|Hometown:||Honey Creek, IA|
It was a Sunday in May when my adventure as a Wheel of Fortune contestant began, but it was years earlier when I became a Wheel watcher. My parents and parents-in-law were avid fans, and we'd watch together, competing to be the first with the correct answer to the puzzles. TV contestants would get stumped by what we felt were easy puzzles, and we'd shake our heads and wonder what they could have been thinking. Little did I know that I would very soon find out exactly how challenging it would be to be a contestant.
My journey began with two friends and a 30-minute trip from our farm in Honey Creek, Iowa, to Harrah's Casino in Council Bluffs to attend a Wheelmobile event. That afternoon my name was drawn from among hundreds in attendance, and I jumped at the chance (literally and figuratively) to solve puzzles. It was great fun! All the entries were sent back to Culver City, California, home of Wheel of Fortune, to be considered for the second round. Those selected would receive an e-mail notification within two weeks so the waiting began.
It is one of those things. You hope to hear but also try so very hard to talk some sense into yourself: Yes, there was a slim chance (only 600 contestants are selected from among hundreds of thousands), but it was just that slim.
I yelled out loud when I saw the e-mail in my box. And then my heart sank the second audition was on the same day I was to take my youngest son to college orientation. What was I to do? Ironically, the answer came with the rising waters of the Missouri River. You see, my husband Craig and sons Shawn and Scott are farmers, and because they were busy planting, caring for livestock, and protecting the land from flooding there wasn't any way we could attend the orientation. So off I went to the second round!
There were about 75 contestants gathered once again at Harrah's Casino, anxious to make a good impression on the Wheel of Fortune staff. After introductions and the calling of a few letters, we took a one-page test of semi-pre-filled puzzles to help the staff choose just 19 people for more games. After solving more puzzles, the staff thanked us and sent us on our way, as another group was to compete in the afternoon. Anyone who succeeded in becoming a contestant would receive a letter in the next two weeks and the waiting began again.
Again, hope was slim because I had missed a very obvious puzzle (well, it seemed obvious after the fact). Yet I continued to check the mailbox each day holding my breath. Then, I was stunned when I saw the small Wheel of Fortune logo on the envelope I must have stood there for quite some time before I was awakened by a friendly neighbor who honked his horn in greeting. After reading the letter twice, I ran to my parents-in-law's farmhouse next door to tell them the good news!
The letter stated I would be called within a period of 18 months for my Wheel appearance, so I went on with life thinking I would most likely get my call after the first of the year. I was shocked when, while on vacation with my family, I retrieved a message on my cell phone informing me that I was needed for a taping date only about one month after receiving my notice! Preparations began travel and accommodations, watching Wheel of Fortune, finding the right clothing, playing Wheel of Fortune games, fighting nervousness, trying desperately to win just one of the electronic Toss Up rounds on my iPad, etc.
It all became very real to me when I discovered I would need to remove a ring on my right (spinning) hand so it wouldn't snag on the Wheel. It was a ring given to me by a dear friend when we traveled together in Up with People more than 30 years ago. Luckily, Deirdre was an avid Wheel Watcher and gave me her blessing and a great local jewelry store (Steven's) promised to repair it and have it ready on my return. My claddagh ring was left behind.
Then we were off to California! Craig, my husband of 26 years, my daughters Sarah and Stephanie, and I were whisked away from the Los Angeles Airport by a very good friend. We spent the day at Venice Beach and the Santa Monica Pier, hoping the calm of the Pacific could wash over me. With a nervous knot in my stomach, my evening ended by praying and hoping that whatever the next day's outcome, all of the contestants would enjoy our experience. Tune in Friday, July 20th, to see how I did!