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Lucky executive assistant is a real winner

  • Published
  • By Michele Donaldson
  • Air Force Materiel Command

Floor seats for a Cleveland Cavaliers game or a chance to play on Wheel of Fortune?  It wasn’t a hard choice for Erika Tate.

Tate, an avid living room Wheel of Fortune contestant, sent in an application and a short video of herself for the game show in 2019. When she didn’t hear back, she applied again in 2021 and was excited when she was contacted for a virtual interview.

“I don’t give up easily,” she said, “I was glad I tried again, because you never know!”

At the audition, she explained to producers why she wanted to be on the show and also got to play a few word games with several other prospective contestants.  When it was over, she was told to expect a phone call.

She was contacted a few weeks later, but the date they gave her conflicted with a long-awaited trip to see the Cavaliers play. Her husband offered to sell the tickets, but the seats were just too good to pass up, so she had to tell the Wheel of Fortune team no.

Luck was with her (luck seems to be the theme of her life), and she was offered an alternative date, so she and her husband took off for Los Angeles in March 2022.

They made the trip a family vacation and toured Hollywood and other Southern California hot spots.

Tate says the day of the show was a whirlwind. They tape six-seven shows a day, so the Culver City studio audience was made up of other contestants waiting their turn to play. She was at the studio from 6:45 am until 6:30 pm.

“It was a long day, but they made it so fun that the time flew by,” said Tate. “I loved having my hair and makeup done, and lunch was good too.”

Besides meeting Vanna White, who she described as sweet and low-key, seeing how things work behind the scenes was Tate’s favorite part of the experience. She was amazed at how much there was to keep track of while playing, including the letter and vowel boards, the blocks that light up, the announcer and the wheel.

She was thankful that they let contestants practice with the buzzer and spinning the wheel before they taped.

“That wheel is very, very heavy!” Tate exclaimed.

Of course, another favorite part of the experience was winning.  Tate won a little more than $21,000 in cash and prizes, but elected to forfeit some of the prizes.

“I don’t like bugs, so the trip to Belize and the camping gear was not for me,” Tate said. “Now if they would have said Hawaii, I would have been gone in a heartbeat.”

Tate feels very lucky to have landed a chance to be on the show, as she was told that only about one in 6000 people who apply are actually accepted.

She was proud to tell the viewing audience that she has been employed at Wright-Patterson AFB for over 36 years.  Tate spent most of her career in various positions in Area B and came to the Engineering Directorate at Headquarters, Air Force Materiel Command, as an executive assistant in 2019.

She also mentioned on the show that aired in late May 2022 how fortunate she was to have her mother and the rest of her family.

Speaking of luck, Tate was also a winner on the local Cash Explosion in 2013 for Ohio Lottery.

And the Cavaliers? Yes, they won too.