|Seeking fame and fortune
Hopefuls pack casino for shot at game show
“Box Office Hit!” cries Kathy on the colorful Wheel of Fortune stage. Four other hopeful contestants stand beside her next to the familiar blue board of letters lit with her correct answer. The Wheel of Fortune Wheelmobile was in town this weekend inspiring hundreds of people to line up outside the Graton Casino Events Center for a chance to spin the iconic wheel.
In their 36-foot Winnebago, television’s No. 1 game show tours the country holding tryouts for potential contestants and found time to visit the casino this past Saturday and Sunday, creating a line of hopefuls who snaked around the building’s interior. With shows at noon, 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m., staff members would draw five names at a time from those who had entered their names to come up on stage and play.
Kathy Quattrin and her friend, Sara Gardner, are both Cotati locals and work together at Fireman’s Fund Insurance in Novato. Kathy was one of the names drawn during Saturday’s 3 p.m. show and hopes to be picked as a show contestant.
“I’d want the trip,” says Sara on what she would want to win if she were to make it onto the show. “I’ve got a kid, I’m a single mom, so a vacation would be really nice.”
“To win!” exclaims Kathy when asked what the most exciting thing about being on the game show would be. “Any prize, really.”
On stage, each contestant was briefly interviewed and took turns guessing letters until someone was able to solve the winning phrase. Prizes included t-shirts, duffle bags, pens and key chains. But for many, the real prize was the opportunity to be on television.
“I always need my 15 minuets of fame. I think getting on TV would definitely fulfill that,” says Jody, who came up from Petaluma for the day with her friend Melissa.
Gayle, who drove down from Chico with a friend, would use her winnings to help her family out if she were to win Wheel of Fortune.
Contestants consisted of college students, graduates and workers from various counties, all brought together in the hopes of winning a little extra money.
“I’ve been watching wheel of fortune since I was really young,” comments Sandra, a Dean’s assistant at Sonoma State University.
“This has definitely been a bucket list item for me for a while,” says Ivan during his on-stage interview. “I’ve been watching this show forever. To everyone who doesn’t think they’ll get picked, I say: you never know.”
After the Wheelmobile is finished touring the state, the people they believe will be the best contestants, based on their stage performance, will receive a letter in the mail inviting them to a second round of auditions somewhere in Northern California. Sometime in future episodes of Wheel of Fortune, Sonoma County may have the chance to see some of their own on TV.