TACOMA — If you find yourself sitting on your couch at home and yelling answers at the TV while watching a game show, you’re not alone. However, for some people, their living room isn’t a big enough stage. That’s where “Wheel of Fortune’s” Wheelmobile comes in.
The Wheelmobile has been traveling across the U.S. for almost 20 years to give people the chance to audition for the popular game show. The vehicle made a stop at the Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma on Wednesday, and hundreds of people from across the state were excited for the chance to audition.
Those interested in auditioning will have one more chance Thursday at the casino from 5-8 p.m.
“You gotta be in it to win it,” said David Strathearn, executive director on the “Wheel of Fortune” team.
Strathearn said they try to replicate the broadcast version of the show so people who audition are put through the motions of what it’s really like. He said they look for a lot of energy and enthusiasm in contestants.
In addition to having two hosts, the replica includes simplified versions of the wheel and letter board. Instead of cash prizes, “Wheel of Fortune” souvenirs like shirts, light-up buttons and hats are given out.
Strathearn said the Wheelmobile brings the show to people’s backyards. If the participants trying out make it onto the show, it allows viewers at home to see contestants from their hometowns.
However, getting on stage in Tacoma doesn’t guarantee participants a slot on the show. During the audition, contestants are evaluated by a member of the “Wheel of Fortune” staff. If the player fits what they are looking for, they have chance to move to the second round of auditions.
They never know how many contestants from any audition session will end up advancing, he said, but it’s usually 10 to 20. This replicated game is quick and just one of two audition processes. If contestants get called back for a second audition, the process is more contained and it is not an open audition. A written test is also administered to assess the contestant’s puzzle skills.
Strathearn said taping for the show starts next week and there will be a lot of contestants from Washington state competing.
Aside from the chance to audition, he said, the event is also a chance for the community have an interactive experience. The audience was encouraged to chant and cheer and get their picture taken at the photo booth.
For a chance to get on stage, contestants signed up and added their name to a drawing. Five contestants were chosen at random each round and were introduced on stage one by one. They shared their name, what they do for a living and a fun fact, all while being hyped up by the host.
Contestants had to be over 21 to participate, and each had a unique story. One participant drove from Wenatchee for the chance to audition, while another had come to the buffet at the casino and didn’t know auditions were going on.
Shelton resident Nicole Kinney, 48, decided to try out after her husband suggested she go.
“I’m really good from my couch,” she said.
Kinney said she was nervous but thought it went OK. If she were to go on and win a cash prize, she said she would probably use it for a vacation.
Anita Newport, 54, from Tacoma, said she wasn’t nervous because as a teacher, she’s used to being in front of crowds. She said she watched “Wheel of Fortune” with her mother and grandmother.
“It’s fun,” Newport said. “It’s a great experience.”
Meaghan Thai from Lacey said she auditioned because she wanted to be on stage. She said she is a fan of the show and is a longtime viewer.
Thai said after the audition she had been nervous, but her adrenaline kept her going.
“I was being courageous,” she said.
If she made it onto the show, Thai said she would pay off some debt and go to massage-therapy school.
Contestants will get an email or letter letting them know if they made it to the next round.