Columbia resident Shelley Wilson still remembers the first time she watched Wheel of Fortune.
As a 10-year-old, Wilson, 39, recalls a visit to her grandmother's house in Marriottsville, where her grandmother, Rosa Lee King, turned on the show, which was at the beginning of its 30-plus year run.
"I was hooked right away," Wilson said.
As Wilson, a self-admitted "puzzle-freak," grew up, so did her infatuation with the show, which led her to spend the past 20 years attempting to become a contestant. This summer, Wilson's work paid off as she, with her mother, daughter, aunt and sister in tow, flew out to Las Vegas to compete on the show's "Las Vegas Vacation Sweepstakes," which airs this week.
"This was a dream come true. People say that all the time, and it's like, 'yeah sure.' But for me, this really is a dream come true," Wilson said.
Wilson, who cannot disclose how she performed, can be seen on the Thursday, Oct. 24 airing of the show, which is scheduled to air on WJLA-TV-7, an ABC affiliate, at 7 p.m. The show normally runs on WBFF-FOX-45, but will not air in the Baltimore area because Fox is broadcasting the World Series. Wilson is planning a viewing party at Triple Nines Bar & Billiards in Elkridge, where she expects between 50 to 75 people to attend.
Among those she hopes can make it is King, who is very proud of her granddaughter.
"I was very glad for her because not too many people can get on that show," said King. "You have to know what you are talking about and know what you are doing."
And as far as predictions go, King, 91, is optimistic her granddaughter will make her proud.
"I think she'll do well because she's very smart. She takes after me, of course," King said.
While Wilson cannot disclose any information about what happened during the 20 minutes she was on set, that's only a fraction of her Wheel of Fortune experience.
Wilson said she arrived in Vegas with her family on the evening of July 28 to prepare for the taping, which was scheduled for July 30.
Wilson, who said she had never been to Las Vegas before, did not spend her first day in Vegas like a typical tourist.
Instead of going out on the town, Wilson said she stay in her hotel room and prepared for show.
"I was studying Vegas terms and Vegas games. Watching the show, I knew there would be some kind of theme with it," she said.
The next day, Wilson was up at 5 a.m., three hours before she was scheduled to arrive on set. Once she arrived, she was whisked away from her family and off to show preparation, which lasted until taping began at 7:30 p.m., according to Wilson.
"It was a long day but it didn't bother me at all," Wilson said. "I was a little nervous but so super excited."
Wilson's mother, Beverly, said she thinks she was more nervous than her daughter.
"I was like, 'Oh boy, we are on TV,' " Beverly said. "But she was calm. TV doesn't faze her like it does some people. It was very exciting to see her up there going through the whole routine."
While Wilson said she hoped the trip would result in material prizes and money, for her, the ultimate prize was the experience.
"Of course I want to win lots of money, cars, prizes and trips, but I just wanted to have a great time because I'm pretty sure it will never happen again," she said.