Chamber president takes spin on Wheel of Fortune

Michael Tortorich
Sherrie Despino

Ascension Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Sherrie Despino, a Gonzales resident, will be a contestant on the game show Wheel of Fortune.

Despino is scheduled to appear in the March 23 show. The syndicated game show can be seen locally on Baton Rouge television station WBRZ. It airs at 6:30 p.m.

Despino said her journey to the show dates back to October when the Wheelmobile, a Winnebago that tours the country in search of contestants, made a stop at the Sheraton in Baton Rouge.

She read about it in a newspaper and decided to give it a shot since she always wanted to be on the show.

About 200 people showed up, she said. Wheelmobile events last about an hour and consist of three Wheel of Fortune shows.

A host picks applications at random and calls participants to the stage in groups of fives to play the game.

On stage a brief interview and a version of the Wheel of Fortune Speed-Up Round is played.

Each person who makes it to the stage gets evaluated as a potential contestant for the show.

Everyone gets Wheel of Fortune hats, shirts and mugs as prizes.

After the Wheelmobile event, a call back is not guaranteed.

Contestants invited to the final auditions are contacted by mail or e-mail about four weeks after the Wheelmobile event.

Despino said she didn’t hear anything after a few weeks passed, so she figured she wasn’t chosen.

She said she was surprised when the show contacted her about moving on to the next step.

Despino made plans to fly to Los Angeles to take part in the show. Along with her husband and daughter, she made a vacation out of it by visiting areas like Hollywood and Santa Barbara.  The show was recorded on a Thursday, and they spent the weekend sightseeing.

Despino said she “looks at the show in a new way” after the experience.

She was surprised about how heavy the wheel was, and how many people it takes to produce the show.

Despino said her husband and daughter were in the audience during the recording of the show, but contestants aren’t allowed to speak to or acknowledge anyone in the crowd.

She said the only time she was nervous was when she was talking to host Pat Sajak.

“You just concentrate,” she said. “You don’t have much time to be star-struck.”

She also said Vanna White visited with the contestants in their room when they were learning the rules and instructions of the game.