SUGAR GROVE – Dan Johnston of Sugar Grove was able to fulfill a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity earlier this year when he appeared on an episode of “Wheel of Fortune,” which aired last month.
“I’ve always loved that show,” he said. “I watched it all the time growing up, and I still watch it every night.”
The episode featuring Johnston aired Nov. 6. He said he started the process of becoming a contestant about a year ago, when he submitted an application.
After sending in a video explaining why he wanted to be on the show, he received an email in April inviting him to a private audition in Chicago, alongside about 70 people.
“They wanted to see how energetic you were, how you called letters and if the letters made sense,” he said of the audition, which included a written portion. “They ended up sending about 50 people home, and they kept about 20 there.”
Johnston said the producers told the remaining contestants they could expect to receive a letter in the mail in the next two weeks if they’d been selected to go on the show.
He said the two-week mark came and went without getting a letter. But it arrived on the 15th day after the audition, he said.
“I was just so excited about it,” he said. “You can only be on that show one time in your life.”
In August, he flew to California with his wife and a friend to compete on “Wheel of Fortune.” Johnston said he’d always told himself that if he ever competed on the show, he would try to be aggressive on the toss-up rounds.
He said on the very first toss-up round, though, he buzzed in and froze when game show host Pat Sajak called his name.
He said he also got hung up on the phrase, “passing the torch,” because he said he was too focused on figuring out the first word of the phrase, which he thought might have been “casting.”
“Well, it didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped for,” Johnston said of the game. “I really thought I’d do well on the show. I came in last out of everyone there, but I won $3,400, so I’m happy I got something out of it.”
“Pat Sajak was really nice,” he said. “After each round, he said, ‘Dan, hang in there. You’re doing really good.’ ”