Apr 02, 2024

Great Bend native appearing on April 5 'Wheel of Fortune'

Posted Apr 02, 2024 5:12 PM
Watch for the pink blazer on the April 5 airing of 'Wheel of Fortune.' Great Bend native Kiley Krug (right) will fulfill a longtime dream as a contestant on the show after taping in February. Courtesy photo
Watch for the pink blazer on the April 5 airing of 'Wheel of Fortune.' Great Bend native Kiley Krug (right) will fulfill a longtime dream as a contestant on the show after taping in February. Courtesy photo

Great Bend Post

Smiles, energy, and enthusiasm. As it turns out, those are the ingredients for "Wheel of Fortune" fans to become contestants. Doing just that has been a longtime dream for Great Bend native Kiley Klug, now an English teacher at Hoisington Middle School. Those dreams came true after one of Klug's many attempts to get on the show finally panned out. Her show will air on Friday, April 5 on NBC.

"I have been a 'Wheel of Fortune' nerd as far back as I can remember," she said. "I applied online in my 20s and never heard anything. Probably between a year and a half to two years ago, they started with post-COVID and they weren't traveling anymore, and they had video applications."

Then the waiting game began. One day, Klug was teaching her class when an email from the show popped up. Unable to wait, Klug had her paraprofessional, Cassie Morales, check it out.

"I told her, 'I just got an email from "Wheel of Fortune,"' Klug said. "'There's no way. It has to be spam. It has to be a prank or a hoax.'"

Morales reported that everything seemed legitimate. Klug confirmed that she was moving on to the next stage of the audition process, which would be a meeting via Zoom.

"I was devastated the first time around," said Klug. "I was stalking my email and they never sent me the Zoom look. I thought that was it. My name would get lost and nothing would ever come of it. I tried to forget about it."

Klug made the trip to California with her husband, Gavin, and two sons. Courtesy photo.
Klug made the trip to California with her husband, Gavin, and two sons. Courtesy photo.

But a month later, another email popped up. "I tried not to get my hopes up," Klug said. "I had told everybody. I told my boss. I told everybody in the school, then nothing came of it. I looked kind of foolish."

This time, everything worked out. Klug was provided a link for a Zoom meeting the next day. She got permission from her principal to leave the classroom for a few minutes. In the five-minute meeting, a producer reminded Klug to bring her smile, energy, and enthusiasm. She immediately qualified for a second audition, but only if she promised to bring more of that personality.

"I'm telling you, 'Wheel of Fortune,' yes there's a bit of puzzle solving and strategy, but No. 1, they are looking for smile, energy, enthusiasm, and they tell you that at every turn. They want somebody fun to watch."

The second audition included another potential contestant from Illinois. They solved three toss-up puzzles, with Klug winning two of the games. In a breakout session that followed, Klug was less confident after solving about half of the 16 puzzles presented.

"At the end, the producer comes on and says, 'Okay, we're done. Bye!'" Klug said. "That was it. I didn't get a good vibe from that at all."

The waiting game began anew. Klug Google searched information from others who have auditioned. She was checking her email two dozen times a day for good news or bad. Finally, five weeks later, a last-minute check of the email before going to bed revealed the best of news.

"I briefly saw my taping date was two weeks from that day," she said. "I started screaming. The second I started screaming, my husband knew exactly what happened."

The email informed Klug her taping date would be Feb. 22 at the Sony Picture Studios in Culver City, Calif., a suburb of Los Angeles. She had to pay for her own accommodations to get there but if she was selected for a taping, the show would provide a $1,000 stipend.

There was a caveat: 21 potential contestants were invited to record six shows that day. With just three contestants on each show, that meant three would remain as alternates. Out-of-state alternates were given just a $750 travel stipend.

Klug traveled with her husband, Gavin, her sister, Rachel, and two of her three sons. She arrived at the studio at 6:15 a.m., 30 minutes early to demonstrate some enthusiasm. The contestants were ushered into the "Jeopardy" studio where Vanna White stopped in to introduce herself.

"She came in and told us all good morning and tried to hype us up a little bit," said Klug. "She's everything she is on TV. She's super-sweet and so kind."

While in the "Jeopardy" studio, the potential contestants watched a video on possible strategies and categories that may be included in a taping. All morning long, producers reminded the group to keep up their smiles, energy, and enthusiasm.

In a strange bit of fate, Klug had posted about her upcoming trip to Los Angeles on social media. One of her husband's friends sent her a message: one of his friends from Holton would also be making the trip. Klug was able to meet that contestant who also made the show.

From the "Jeopardy" set, the contestants moved to the "Wheel of Fortune" set where they practiced spinning the wheel. They were grouped and played a single round of the game. Contestants were then named three at a time and a ping pong ball was drawn to determine which taping those contestants would attend. Klug was one of the final contestants named and her group drew the fourth taping.

Klug had to give up her phone when she arrived at the studio. Her family was allowed into the "Wheel of Fortune" studio at 11 a.m., but contestants were sat on the opposite side of the studio and the two sides were to have no contact.

"My husband, my sister, my kids, they're all trying to get my attention," Klug said. "I had to straight-up ignore them."

Just days before the group departed Kansas, Klug's husband had overheard a conversation with producers that three alternates would be selected. They anxiously awaited Klug to make her appearance on the stage with no knowledge she would be in the fourth taping. They sat through three tapings with no sign of Kiley, then had to break for lunch.

"They leave and they are beside themselves," Klug said. "They are down. They are depressed. They are thinking this isn't going to happen. She's going to be an alternate and we're going to stay here all day until 7 p.m. for nothing. They were so upset."

With everyone back in the studio after lunch, the family no longer saw Klug in her bright pink blazer sitting on the other side of the room. Sure enough, they exploded with excitement as she made her way onto the stage.

Then it was introduction time. Klug graduated from Great Bend High School but lives in Odin. "They were very, very interested in the fact that I was from a town with 100 people," she said.

Klug had promised her students she would give them a shoutout during the introduction. A producer told her she would have to leave that bit behind.

"It ended up being too confusing to include that I was both from a town of 100 people and that I had around 100 students at Hoisington Middle School," Klug said. "We had to nix the part of my introduction where I gave my school and kids a shoutout. I was really bummed about that."

Then it was showtime. "Wheel of Fortune" is 22 minutes of actual airtime on NBC. Klug estimated the average taping took approximately 40 minutes.

"On my show, for some reason or another, a puzzle was compromised and we were in the middle of a round," she said. "We all had to turn around and it took a while for them to get it all figured out."

Klug said the taping of the show otherwise resembled exactly what viewers see on TV. She never had the stage fright many gameshow players often describe.

"I was 100 percent shocked at how calm and collected I felt up there," she said. "It was so bizarre. I've always been so nervous; nervous about public speaking. Obviously, after so long, I've gotten better about it. I was not nervous at all. It was so surreal and bizarre. I really felt like I was solving puzzles at home. I know not a lot of people wouldn't agree with me on that. I know some other contestants were very nervous and froze."

Klug has proven she can keep a secret. Strict rules prohibit her from releasing any details about the outcome of the game prior to its air date. She thinks that actually adds to the fun.

"My mother is not very excited that I can't tell her anything," she said. "But I don't want to cheat them out of seeing all this for the first time. I feel like it's just so entertaining. Whether I win or lose, I want them to experience this the first time when they watch it for the first time. I feel like it would ruin the whole experience if they learned anything about it."

Klug will make her big television debut at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, April 5.