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Chance of a lifetime

March 5, 2011
By Cindy Votruba

Matthew Burnett has been a "wheel watcher" since he was a kid.

Burnett, a soybean, corn and beef cattle farmer from Marshall, was on the game show "Wheel of Fortune" Feb. 25, earning second place for the night.

A big fan of "Wheel of Fortune," Burnett has watched the show for more than 15 years, growing up solving the puzzles.

Article Photos

Photo courtesy of Wheel of Fortune public relations

Matthew Burnett of Marshall was a contestant on the Feb. 25 broadcast of the “Wheel of Fortune”?game show.

"I would do pretty well with the puzzles and my family and my in-laws suggested I should try out," Burnett said.

When it was announced that a Wheelmobile event was coming to Fargo, N.D., Burnett's mother-in-law, who lived in Moorhead, cut out the ad from the newspaper and posted it on her refrigerator. He decided to go for it.

The Wheelmobile turned out to be the day after Burnett's bachelor party.

"But my wife insisted I should go because it was the chance of a lifetime," Burnett said. He was one of the last ones to put his name into the event. "I wasn't feeling the best."

There were 3,000 to 4,000 people at the Wheelmobile event, Burnett said, and even though he was practically the last to enter, his name did get called. He wasn't sure it was him at first.

"I couldn't understand because the speaker was bad," Burnett said.

In Fargo, he got one puzzle to solve, but representatives from the show were looking for contestants in particular, Burnett said.

"They are looking at your personality," Burnett said.

And his personality helped him move on, Burnett said.

"They sent me a letter saying you're going to the final audition," Burnett said.

When he had filled out an informational sheet at the first audition, Burnett forgot to put his apartment number on the address section. He wasn't sure he would receive any notice if he made it.

"It was kind of a miracle I would be on the final audition," Burnett said.

There were 60 people at the final audition, Burnett said, with more puzzles to solve.

"They would do that a couple of times to see if you could speak clearly and loudly," Burnett said.

Then there was a five-minute written tests that contained phrases with only a few of the letters shown.

"There were some that were easy, but others that were hard," Burnett said. The field was then narrowed down to 20 finalists who gave another interview, he said.

He said he would be told if he made it to the show. About a couple weeks later, Burnett learned he was going to Los Angeles.

"I didn't think I would make it," Burnett said.

When he got the letter inviting him to be on the show, he and his wife, Cari, were "just screaming down the sidewalk" from their mailbox back to their apartment.

"We got the Wheel of Fortune game for Wii and I was practicing on that," Burnett said.

Last Friday's episode was taped on Dec. 10. Burnett said it was nerve-wracking at first.

"They helped out a lot with making sure your nerves were settled," Burnett said. He said contestants got to spin the wheel a couple of times before taping to get used to it.

Burnett said the Wheel of Fortune set seemed a lot smaller in person than it did on television. The wheel looked smaller as well even though it was 3,000 to 4,000 pounds.

"So it took a little work to spin it," he said.

He said the host Pat Sajak and hostess Vanna White were also helpful to contestants and were "really nice people."

"They try to make you feel at ease," Burnett said.

Burnett didn't do too badly on his appearance on "Wheel," earning cash prizes, including a trip.

"I just think it was the chance of a lifetime," Burnett said.



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