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Cape Coral woman wins big on ‘Wheel of Fortune’

By Staff | Jun 10, 2010

Hundreds of Tara Pollman’s friends and family gathered at the William Austen Youth Center on Wednesday night to see her compete on “Wheel of Fortune.”
Pollman, a Cape Coral resident and Web designer, flew out to California with her husband Clay on March 4 to film an episode of the popular, long-running television show.
Producers from the show surprised her with a phone call at the end of February after two auditions — the first at the show’s Wheel Mobile in Fort Myers and later in Orlando.
“They called me out of the blue and asked me to fly out to California, I thought someone was playing a joke,” she said.
Producers typically send a letter to a contestant telling them they passed the audition consisting of mock games and a written test, and to expect an invitation to the show in the next 18 months, she said. But, when no letter came, Pollman thought she wasn’t going to be on the show.
Finally, she received an invite after signing up for “Wheel of Fortune” online, and got invited over the phone without any letter being sent. Her sister, Crystal Johnson, accompanied her to one audition but didn’t make the cut.
On March 4, Pollman sat through the filming of six episodes from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. before she finally had the chance to spin the wheel. She also had to sign an agreement promising not to reveal if she won or lost until after the show aired.
“It was very surreal, I know I was there, but it felt like a dream,” she said. “It was nerve-racking, I couldn’t eat or sleep for two weeks.”
The famous wheel she spun during the taping weighs hundreds of pounds, she said. After the show her arms were sore and she had a bruise on her hip.
Yet, through the nervousness and heavy wheel, Pollman made it to the bonus
round where she got to stand next to host Pat Sajak and Vanna White.
“I went on to the bonus round and you have one last puzzle to solve, and I got it,” she said. “Pat and Vanna were really nice.”
She left the show with an 11-day trip to Italy, a 7-day trip to New Orleans and a total a cash prize worth $41,000. The cash total for all of her prizes was $58,000.
Before filming the episode in March, Pollman also starred in a commercial for “Wheel of Fortune” where she identified herself as a Cape Coral resident and it featured footage of her on the show. The commercial aired all day Wednesday on NBC-2.
Pollman’s sister said her family was excited she had made it on the game show.
“She’s been trying hard to get on ‘Wheel of Fortune,'” said Johnson. “It was a dream of her’s to get on the show. I went on the first audition and she was so excited.”