Terri Connolly of Temecula won $65,776 in cash and prizes, including a trip to Costa Rica and a Toyota 4Runner, as a contestant on “Wheel of Fortune” which aired Friday, March 27.
The game in which she participated was taped back in January and when the episode finally aired, instead of having a standard watch party with her friends and family, they did it online due to the coronavirus-related restrictions.
Connolly has been in education since 1995 and is an assistant principal at Railroad Canyon Elementary. She is also the president of the Temecula Valley Wine Society, the treasurer of the Lake Elsinore Rotary Club and a member of Mensa International.
“We did a Facebook Live watch party because we had planned to go to the Hive, a restaurant in Wildomar,” Connolly said. “We were going to have a watch party there with some of my kids from my school. I used to be an assistant principal at two schools, and I had student councils at both schools. My student council kids from Wildomar and lots of families and student council from Railroad Canyon were invited. My Temecula Valley Wine Society people were invited. My Rotary friends were invited – everybody was invited and of course, boom, that blew up. So we ended up doing a Facebook Live watching of it.”
Connolly said she’s been a longtime fan of “Wheel of Fortune.”
“I’ve been watching for … I’ve lost count of how many years,” she said. “I’ve always enjoyed watching the show sitting in your armchair. It’s easy to play the game when it’s on the TV and you’re not stressed. But I’ve always wanted to be on it. I thought I would do OK.”
When her daughter was 16 years old, she submitted her mother’s name for the show, but she wasn’t selected. Later on, she shared the link to apply with her mother and urged her to do it.
“‘Mom, you need to go on and give them a video of yourself.’” Connolly said. “I had a couple of minutes. I was sitting in the Albertson’s parking lot, and said, ‘OK, I’m going to tape myself.’ And I sat there in my car and taped myself, told them a little bit about myself, sent the video off.”
After reading up on the process, Connolly said tens of thousands of people apply each year and only a few are selected. But shortly after she sent in her video, she got a message back from the show telling her she was selected for audition.
“Both my daughter and I went down to audition, went through the auditioning process and while we were there we were told, ‘It can take up to two years before you would be taped for the show,’” Connolly said. “I ended up getting a letter saying, ‘Congratulations, you’ve been selected; we’d love to contact you at some point to have you on the show.’”
That notice was in March 2019, and they taped the show Jan. 27.
She said she got to the taping at 7:30 a.m.
“It was a very long day,” Connolly said. “They started telling us all of the legal things that we needed to know, and it had us signing nondisclosure agreements and things like that.”
Her daughter arrived for the taping at 11 a.m. and since they tape several shows in one day, the contestants are on one side of the audience, opposite from friends and family.
“We couldn’t even acknowledge their existence,” Connolly said.
She said as the games were being played in front of her, she noticed some of the people around her were solving the puzzles really quickly.
“I was thinking, ‘Oh God, this is going to be one of those days when my mind goes blank and I don’t do as well as I should.’” Connolly said. “That was not the case when I got on the show, clearly my brain kicked into gear a bit more.”
When asked whether the game slowed down for her when she got onstage, Connolly said the opposite was true.
“It was fast,” she said. “It was kind of furious and in between each round and they would pull us down off the platforms, kind of retouch up the makeup, tell us what the next puzzle round was going to be.
“It went fast, they say it was about 22 minutes of taping, but boy, it seemed a lot faster than that,” Connolly said.
She won the trip to Costa Rica, a truck, a $1,000 Bass Pro Shops gift card and just over $16,000 in cash.
“Of course, there’s taxes that I have to pay on all of that,” Connolly said. “That’s a big chunk. But yes, it’s still worth it for a day of fun.”
Connolly has two children and four grandchildren, and she said she is planning to take them on a vacation when the travel ban is lifted.
Jeff Pack can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.