What it is Like to Win Wheel of Fortune?

What it is Like to Win Wheel of Fortune?

Two Lifelong Friends Fill in the Blacks and Come Full Circle

Photo courtesy of Laura Oliver and Beth Day.

It is a beautiful day in late July, and I am at Vaughan Woods in Hallowell, colloquially known as Hobbitland. I am here to talk with Beth Day and Laura Oliver, two practically life-long friends who won a team competition of Wheel of Fortune that aired in February. Laura’s two daughters, Adelaide and Eve, play along the waterfall and the trees while I talk with Beth and Laura on the bridge. Beth’s husband Eric is back at the car with their infant Juliette, born May 16.

Beth and Laura have a special friendship that has stood the test of time. They have been friends since meeting at the age of 10 while playing PeeWee basketball. From there they played basketball, softball, and soccer together, eventually graduating from Medomak High School in Waldoboro.

It was a special Girlfriend Getaways episode of Wheel of Fortune, which aired on February 19. Beth and Laura each won a trip to Aruba for two and a combined $63,550, which includes the price of the trips and travel expenses for the show.

Beth was invited to audition for the game show in Bar Harbor after submitting an audition tape. When she learned that the show was also looking for pairs to compete, she asked Laura to join her. “I wouldn’t have won anything without her,” Beth says of her friend.

Laura is an avid Wheel of Fortune fan and was incredibly excited to be asked to compete. Laura says she enjoys the show because she knows the content is always family friendly.

Laura remembers she was at a beach in August of 2019 when Beth called to invite her. “Beth said, ‘Do you like Wheel of Fortune?’ and I was like, ‘I DVR it every night! My husband makes so much fun of me!’” Laura says, laughing. “So, she asked, ‘Would you like to audition with me? I have a chance to audition. They said I could bring a friend if I want.’ I said, ‘Yes, I wanna go! That would be great!’” Both women have huge smiles while they recount their experiences on the show.

At the Bar Harbor audition, there was a written test and various word puzzles for them to solve. Two weeks later the pair received a letter confirming they were being invited to the show. Beth and Laura taped in Los Angeles on January 10, and then were not allowed to tell anyone the results for more than a month until it aired. Laura says that keeping the secret was “so hard!” But the two could at least talk to each other about it.

“It’s just a really cool, special experience,” Beth says. “One of the best experiences of your life. And you get to figure out who you spend it with. I think that just makes it even more special. And it made it a lot better too because, obviously we won. If you win and you’re just playing solo by yourself and you can’t talk about it with anyone . . .” Beth thinks that would be really hard because she and Laura were so excited about their win. But they could share their excitement with each other, and “be excited about it as much as we want to,” Beth says.

The two played a Kindle Wheel of Fortune game and held practice sessions to prepare before the show, and they decided on a strategy. Laura realized that the bonus round puzzles included many of the same letters, so they agreed on what letters to call if they made it that far.

From left are Eric and Beth Day, and their daughter, Juliette; and Laura Oliver with her daughters Eve and Adelaide. Photo by Christine Simmonds.

The contestants had to review rules and procedures several times before taping and between rounds. They practiced spinning the different wheels and reviewed the rules of each round. “Reviewing the rules seems simple, but there is a lot more to it,” Beth says. Rules include leaving your thumbs off the buzzer and waiting until show host Pat Sajak called specific names. Laura remembers that there were “so many things to think about” during the taping. While at home you can do anything, in the actual show you have to remember the rules and procedures, plus keep the clues and the already guessed letters in mind.

Beth also says the actual wheel was smaller than she expected. She had been told it was heavy, but says it was actually not a struggle to spin.

The game went by quickly, so both Beth and Laura did not realize how much they had won until Pat announced it. They agree that the experience of being on the show was more important than winning, but when they saw the total, they were shocked.

Because of COVID-19, Beth and Laura have already received their winnings, earlier than expected. As for the trip . . . the pandemic has put some serious travel restrictions on the world. Laura plans to ask for an extension from the show to ensure she can take it safely. Beth has already been granted an extension since she was 22 weeks pregnant at the time of the taping and would soon have a small infant at home.

Beth says one consequence of being chosen to compete was that Laura was the first person to know of her pregnancy. “In the letter that you get from Wheel of Fortune, it specifically says that if you are pregnant you need to let them know,” Beth says.

So, Laura called her up and told her, “I read in our letter that you’ve got to tell me if you’re pregnant.” At that point, Beth had not told a soul about the pregnancy, but she shared it with her childhood friend.

Both women agree that one big highlight of the experience was meeting hosts Pat Sajak and Vanna White. Because they were winners, they got to interact with the two hosts more than the other contestants.

“You don’t interact that much with Pat and Vanna until you go to the bonus round,” says Laura. “We had that extra time with them, which was kind of neat. And they were amazing!” Beth agrees that both Pat and Vanna were very kind and describes Vanna as “very genuine.”

Laura and her husband Jake hope to use some of their winnings to purchase an RV and do road-schooling with their daughters. Laura is a stay-at-home mom and home-schools Adelaide and Eve.

Beth and Eric have been looking for a house to purchase with their winnings, and of course, Jake is their real estate agent. “So, it’s a good full circle,” says Beth. “We were on Wheel of Fortune together. We won the money. And then he is going to be helping us with the house.”

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Christine Simmonds

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