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Local couple takes a spin on “Wheel”

Kevin Hill is used to studying. He got his undergraduate degree from Dickinson State University and is now working on his master's degree at North Dakota State University. While an XBox gaming system isn't known as a studying tool, for Kevin and ...

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Courtesy Photo by Carol Kaelson, Califon Productions Kevin and JoEll HIll, who used to live in Dickinson but now call Fargo home, will appear on a couple’s edition of “Wheel of Fortune” on Feb. 5.

Kevin Hill is used to studying.

He got his undergraduate degree from Dickinson State University and is now working on his master’s degree at North Dakota State University.

While an XBox gaming system isn’t known as a studying tool, for Kevin and wife, JoEll, it became just that in early December.

That’s when they spent two weeks playing “Wheel of Fortune” on their gaming system. Not for fun, like most, but to practice for their chance to win it big on the iconic TV game show.

The Hills will appear Friday as contestants on “Wheel of Fortune” during the game show’s week-long couple’s edition.

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They haven’t been able to talk about their performance on the show, or what their winnings were, since they taped their episode on Dec. 17. But after this Friday, they won’t have to keep it a secret any longer.

“I preferred a couple’s episode for sure,” Kevin said. “It was a little less nerve-racking.”

When the couple saw that the Wheelmobile -- the show’s traveling audition studio -- was going to be at Scheels Arena in Fargo last summer, they couldn’t let the opportunity pass them up.

“We filled out an application and then, a few months later, they emailed us back to come for a private audition,” Kevin said. “We made it through a couple of cuts and got on the show. It was a lot of fun.”

JoEll’s parents live near Lefor, where she grew up, and in Dickinson. She said their family had just returned home from spending Thanksgiving here when they learned they were going to Los Angeles to appear on the show.

The Hills said the experience leading up to appearing on the show was a whirlwind. They received only a two-week notice before their trip, and with no family in the Fargo area, had to make arrangements for someone to care for their two children, 7-year-old daughter, Oriana, and 3-year-old son, Maddox. JoEll is also pregnant with the couple’s third.

The day of filming was long, starting at 6:30 a.m. With the whole week of shows being shot in one day, the couples had to draw for which episode they would be on and where their spot would be.

“You were guessing all day about who you would be playing against and what time of day you would get to tape. We were there all day long,” said Kevin, who is from Texas and met his wife in Colorado. “We didn’t leave until about 5:30 in the afternoon.”

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The Hills won’t have to worry about going through the experience again anytime soon, since they had to sign an agreement to wait six months before trying out for another game show.

During taping, the Hills ran into a couple from West Fargo who will also appear on the couple’s edition of the show.

“We felt pretty lucky,” Kevin said. “... (The West Fargo couple is) going to come to our watch party and we’re probably going to check them out on their episode too. We made a lot of friends. When you’re there with that many couples all day long and cheering each other on, there’s a lot of camaraderie. It was just a great overall experience.”

Kevin works at The Bison Turf bar in Fargo and said everyone is looking forward to their watch party there.

“Everybody is coming out,” he said. “My boss has already put posters up. We’re going to have a sign outside. It’s going to be quite an experience for everybody.  My friends are more excited than we are.”

The Hills, who been together for 11 years and married for eight of those years, wanted to make sure they didn’t come off badly on the show.

“We went through different scenarios like, ‘What if this happens?’ or “If this happens, what would you do?’ just to make sure when you’re on TV, you’re not standing there arguing with each other,” JoEll said.

With excitement and nervousness mixed into one at watching themselves on TV, JoEll just doesn’t want to come across as rude.

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“I’m a little nervous,” she said. “I think, you always think and hope, that you look and act professional and courteous. But when you’re up there, you’re playing against other people and as much as they told us it’s not you against the other players, it’s you against the wheel.”

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