EARLIER: Heritage librarian spins for a ‘Fortune’

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Kathy Mansfield will be on the show to air tonight

By Lisa King

Kathy Mansfield has been watching the Wheel of Fortunegame show since it aired in 1983, and she said she always wanted to be a contestant.

Little did she know it would take 29 years for her wish to come true.

She will appear as a contestant on the long-running game show tonight at 7 in the episode scheduled to appear on WLKY-Ch. 32.

Mansfield, a Simpsonville resident and librarian at Heritage Elementary School, said the children at Heritage are almost as excited as she is.

“They just can’t wait,” she said, laughing. “They ask me everyday, ‘When is it going to be on? What night?’ They are so excited for me, and that’s exciting to me.”

Mansfield said one of the most difficult things for her has been to keep the details of the show a secret, because it was taped on Sept. 6, and Wheel of Fortunepolicy prevents her from revealing any prizes she may have won until the show airs.

“The kids keep asking me if I am going to spend all my millions on new books for the library or prizes for them, and I  just smile and say, ‘You’ll just have to watch the show and find out!’” she said.

Mansfield said she found out from her sister earlier in the year there would be auditions for Wheel of Fortunecontestants at the Louisville Zoo, so she and her husband, Rick, joined hundreds of people waiting to audition.

After five hours, and with the Mansfields not being among those chosen to audition, an event organizer told the crowd the show would keep their information and may contact some of them in the future.

"I thought, ‘Yeah, right,’" Mansfield said.

Less than two months later, she got an E-mail inviting her to another audition in Louisville. One hundred people had been invited, and the audition process narrowed that group down to 22, and she was one of them, she said.

Those 22 people got to play a mock version of the show, in which the contestants introduced themselves to the audience. Mansfield said she was so excited she forgot to mention she'd been an educator for 22 years and had been married for 22 years.

"I remember gushing about our fourteen-year-old basset hound, though," she said.

Those 22 were told they would get a letter within two weeks if they were selected to appear on the show.

Mansfield said she was in Louisiana, her home state, two weeks later when a neighbor, whom she had asked to pick up her mail, called to say she had gotten a letter from the Wheel of Fortune.

"[She] opened the letter and read it to us over the phone," Mansfield said. "I was thrilled beyond belief. And I was incredibly grateful to get the news while I was back home with family so they could share in all the wonderful news."


School support

Mansfield is in her first year as librarian at Heritage and was librarian at Simpsonville Elementary from 2003 to 2009, and from 2009 to 2012, before coming to Heritage this year, she was a library media consultant for the Kentucky Department of Education.

She was just getting ready to start her new job at Heritage Elementary, and because she didn't know yet when the show would be taped, she was worried it was going to fall during the first week of school.

It wasn't, but she missed the first week of school, anyway, because her brother, Clark, died unexpectedly and she had to go back to Louisiana.

"He was so very proud that I was going to be a contestant on Wheel of Fortune," Mansfield said. "I knew that when I got my chance to play, I would do so in honor and memory of him."

Then on Aug. 22, when Mansfield got off work, she discovered a voice message on her phone from producers telling her when the show would be taped.

"I ran back inside the school to tell my principal, Mrs. Black, that I needed my three personal days for the year right away, I'm going to be on the Wheel of Fortune," she said.

Said Heritage Principal J.J. Black, "Isn't it just the coolest thing ever?"

"We were just so excited that someone from Heritage in little old Waddy, Kentucky, was going to be on a nationally syndicated television show. She is definitely a celebrity around here. We are just really excited that she is representing us. She is a great representation for Heritage, that's for sure."

Duanne Puckett, public relations coordinator for Shelby County Public Schools, said

Mansfield has always set expectations for her students as librarian.

“Her meeting one of her own goals sets a good example for them that everyone should be a life-long learner and that working hard can make dreams come true,” Puckett said.

Puckett said a former Shelby County High School graduate, Seth Edens, also will be on Wheel of Fortune. His episode will air on Thursday. Edens graduated in 1999 or 2000, Puckett said, adding that she did not have any contact information for him.


California spinning

Mansfield and her husband traveled to California accompanied by his parents, Barbara and Sonny Orren, also of Louisiana, to be in the audience.

Mansfield, who said she would be watching tonight in Louisiana with her family, said she had a fabulous time but said it was an eye opener for her.

"When I watch it [Wheel] on TV, I yell at the contestants, 'How can you not recognize that? What's wrong with you?'" she said, laughing. "But when you're on the show, you're in front of a live audience, and cameras are everywhere, and Pat Sajak is standing next to you, and you're told to watch the used-letter board, the puzzle categories, the actual puzzle and the money tabulation board. You have to pay attention to so many things, and you're supposed to smile the entire time.

“It's very difficult, and it's very nerve-wracking. You have just a few seconds to guess a letter, and all eyes are on you as you're trying to solve, and you're worrying about your microphone falling off and sweating."

One thing that made the experience easier, though, Mansfield said, was the friendliness of Sajak and Vanna White.

"They were not what I expected at all," Mansfield said. "I thought they would be aloof and celebrity-like, but they were very down to earth and friendly. They encouraged us to do well and just have fun."

Mansfield said she was really floored by White.

"We saw her without her makeup and her hair done, and she was just gorgeous," she said.

Her only regret was that contestants were not allowed to photograph White or Sajak or take any photographs inside the studio at all.

But everything else was great, Mansfield said, adding that there were even people on staff that brought the contestants water during commercial breaks, and they received encouragement from them as well.

"They just told us it's not the end of the world if you hit lose a turn or bankrupt, and I took that to heart," she said. "I grinned the whole time, and it didn't matter to me if I won a single dollar.

“I was just thrilled to be in California for the first time and my first time on a TV show. I wouldn't trade the experience for anything in the whole world.”


Check it out

WHAT:Kathy Mansfield on Wheel of Fortune

WHEN:7 p.m., today


MORE:Visit wheeloffortune.com and click on contestants to see a blog by Mansfield.