This Week's Contestant
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POSTED on Monday, November 19th, 2012
My family has watched Wheel of Fortune since it first aired. I remember visiting my grandma in Arkansas each summer and our ritual of watching the show every day together, each of us trying to guess the puzzle before a contestant on the show did. Grandma was a whiz at any kind of word puzzle, so I know she would have been so proud of me being selected as an actual contestant for Wheel of Fortune!
I'm originally from North Louisiana, and that's where my family first started watching the show. After marrying and moving to Kentucky in 1991, I continued as an avid fan of the show, and soon brought my husband along as a viewer, too. Due to long workdays, we often taped the show to watch over dinner in the evenings. I'm such a huge fan that my husband even bought me a game console that allowed me to play along with the live action on the TV, just like I was a real contestant! Once laptops and iPads were introduced to our lives, Wheel of Fortune was an early purchase so I could play on both devices. I remember impressing my husband one time with a computer version of the game we were playing together by guessing the correct answer to a puzzle with NO LETTERS showing! It was a song lyric category, and I looked at those white empty boxes, and it all just clicked. He told me then that I needed to be on the show because he just knew I could win big!
Several years would pass by before I found an opportunity to audition for the show, and that audition happened serendipitously. My friend Kim posted on Facebook that she was at the Louisville Zoo (KY) for open auditions for Wheel of Fortune. Since I live in a neighboring county in the small town of Simpsonville, I don't get the Louisville newspaper. I didn't even know they were holding auditions! I immediately asked for details and then told my husband we had all day plans for the next day at the Louisville Zoo. The rainy weather didn't dampen the spirits of the hundreds of contestant hopefuls that stood for hours under a tent hoping to hear their name called to audition on stage. Alas, after 5 hours of waiting, I was not one of the chosen. An event organizer told the crowd that all the information cards filled out by folks would be taken back to California and read and that some of us would be contacted for further audition information. I thought, "Yeah, right. Those cards are going in the dumpster outside the zoo. There's no way they will take those back and read them."
Boy, was I ever wrong. Less than two months later I received an email letting me know I was invited to the next stage of the audition process in downtown Louisville. Wow! I couldn't believe it! The audition was being held the next-to-last-day for me on my job, but I knew a chance to be on Wheel of Fortune was something I couldn't pass up. I adjusted my work schedule, and off I traveled to Louisville, excited beyond belief!
I settled in with about 100 or so other folks with hopes just as high as mine to be chosen for Wheel of Fortune. We played several rounds of the game as a large group, each of our names called randomly to participate. I had listened intently to the coaching advice beforehand about shouting out letters with confidence and making smart choices with letter selection and showing enthusiasm. "Remember to smile!" was a constant direction from the audition staff. Let me tell you, that's hard to do when you are sweating like crazy and trying desperately to solve a puzzle and not call out used letters and knowing that 100+ people are watching you, including a panel of judges!
Somehow I managed to yell "T" and "L" with some modicum of enthusiasm, and I actually solved a puzzle. In fact, I won a pretend trip to the South Pole (For which I showed nerdy exuberance!) I was definitely caught up in all the excitement of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Would I be chosen to go forward in the audition process? Lots of folks auditioned well, and I knew the chances to be chosen were small. Then, names were called out 22 names. Names of folks who were invited to stay for one more round of auditions. And I was one of them! Yippee!
The next round included a pretend introduction like a contestant would do with Pat Sajak in the real game. Somehow I failed to mention that I was a teacher (which I've been for 22 years!) and that I was married (for 22 years!). I remember gushing about our 14-year-old basset hound, though. Go figure. That group of 22 was told we would either receive a letter in two weeks that we were chosen as contestants for a future show, or we would not hear anything at all. I left the auditions hoping against the odds that I would get a letter.
The two-week mark happened while my husband and I were visiting family in Louisiana. We had given strict instructions to our neighbor to call us immediately if we received any type of mail that was from Wheel of Fortune. She was a nervous wreck checking our mail each day! Exactly two weeks from that last audition day, a letter arrived in the mail. Our neighbor called and excitedly opened the letter and read it to us over the phone. I was thrilled beyond belief! And I was incredibly grateful to get the news while I was back home with family so they could share in all the wonderful news.
The letter said that I would receive a phone call two weeks before the taping of the show. I was starting a new job as a teacher in a new-to-me school. I prayed hard that the show date wouldn't be the first week of school. In fact, I didn't mention anything to my new principal so she wouldn't be worried that I might miss an important part of the school year. I did end up missing that first week of school, though not because of Wheel of Fortune. My brother Clark died unexpectedly, so I headed home to Louisiana to be with family. He was so very proud that I was going to be a contestant on Wheel of Fortune. I knew that when I got my chance to play, I would do so in honor and memory of him.
The call came on August 22, and I missed it! The inside of a school building is not the best for cell phone reception, so I didn't even know a call had come through until I headed out to my car at 6:00 that evening. When I saw a number from California, I knew it was THE call. I listened to the message several times, goose bumps rising on my arms. I called my husband first thing, and then I ran inside the school to tell my principal, Mrs. Black, that I needed my three personal days for the year right away I'm going to be on Wheel of Fortune!
How did I do? Tune in to watch this Simpsonville, Kentucky school librarian play Wheel of Fortune on November 23rd.