By Starrla Cray
LESTER PRAIRIE, DELANO, MN Nicole Weisenburger can cross one big thing off her bucket list.
The 2004 Lester Prairie High School graduate was recently chosen to appear on “Wheel of Fortune,” and the episode will air Tuesday, Jan. 27 at 6:30 p.m. on WCCO-TV Channel 4.
“I’ve been watching the show forever, and my mom would always say I should be on it,” Nicole said.
Nicole applied online every couple months, but didn’t hear anything until early October, when she got an e-mail about a closed audition in St. Paul.
About 60 people were at the tryouts, which included a written puzzle-solving test, practice rounds spinning the wheel, and follow-up interviews.
Nicole made it to the next step, and was told she’d know within two weeks if she’d be on a show.
“I didn’t get a letter, so I assumed I didn’t get picked,” she said.
But about a month after the audition, a letter arrived stating that she was chosen, and could be called for a show anytime in the next 18 months.
Nicole, who works as a software developer in Minnetonka, let her workplace know she might have to take off a few days, but didn’t know when.
Whirlwind at the wheel
Not long after, Nicole was told a tape date had been set for Dec. 4. She and her parents, Bryon and LuAnn, along with her sister, Beth Sawatzke, flew to the “Wheel of Fortune” set in Culver City, CA.
“Beth and I practiced the whole plane ride there,” Nicole said.
When they arrived on set, Nicole was told she’d appear on the second show (out of six being filmed that day).
“Pat and Vanna are really nice,” Nicole recalled. “Vanna came in while we were getting ready, and nobody recognized her because she had her hair up and was wearing sweatpants.”
The set is smaller than it looks on TV, with room for about 100 people in the audience, according to Nicole. She added that the filming went so fast she didn’t have time to be nervous.
“It was quite the whirlwind,” she said.
In addition to appearing on the show, Nicole also recorded a “Hometown Howdy,” which might air on WCCO-TV Channel 4 before the episode. In the greeting, Nicole mentioned the town where she currently lives (Delano), but now wishes she would have also mentioned her hometown of Lester Prairie and her boyfriend, Neil Kleve.
All “Wheel of Fortune” contestants win a minimum of $1,000 (which helps cover travel expenses), but details about the episode and any additional prizes are a secret.
“Everybody at work is trying to ask me trick questions to get me to say,” Nicole said. “It hasn’t slipped out yet.”
For Nicole, being on “Wheel of Fortune” was an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience. It even topped her other bucket list item skydiving, which she’s done twice at Westside Skydivers in Winsted.
“It was pretty exciting,” she said.
Fun facts about ‘Wheel of Fortune’
Learn more about this iconic American game show:
• Vanna White, 57, has worn a different outfit in every single episode since she joined the show in 1982.
• The puzzleboard became computerized in 1997, which saved hours of production time.
• In the manual puzzle days, Vanna once turned the wrong letter by accident and the puzzle had to be thrown out.
• “Wheel of Fortune” has aired more than 6,000 episodes since it began in 1975.
(Facts compiled from Time Magazine)