Folks compete to “come on down”

‘The Price is Right’ holds auditions at The Meadows

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If you’ve tuned in to “The Price is Right” during its long tenure on the tube, it’s easy to get the impression the contestants are casual tourists who score a ticket to a taping session and are selected to “Come on down!” and compete all the way to the Showcase Showdown by the luck of the draw.


Well, getting to “Come on down!” isn’t that simple or that random. First, potential contestants must go through an audition process, just like for “American Idol,” and the game show’s production team set up shop Thursday afternoon at The Meadows Racetrack & Casino in North Strabane Township for a casting call.


There were at least a few hundred people massed in the lower level of the casino, with a line stretching out toward the racetrack. Erica Brueggemann of Pittsburgh managed to get the number 001 after arriving at the casino at 8:30 a.m. She kept her place at the head of the line for more than five hours thanks to snacks she brought with her, fortified additionally by sheer enthusiasm.


“I just find the show exciting,” Brueggemann explained after her moment in front of the camera. “I would love to be on the show.”


Unlike “American Idol” competitors, however, being able to belt out a tune is not a requirement. Those auditioning had 30 seconds to explain why they wanted to be on “The Price is Right,” with winners chosen on the basis of personality, enthusiasm and the clarity of their answer. Two semifinalists will be chosen from the audition, and they will then be flown to Los Angeles before Nov. 25 for another round of interviews with producers.


To keep spirits up during the wait to audition, “Price is Right” announcer George Gray turned up to talk to fans, sign autographs and pose in scores of photographs. Age 46, Gray explained that he remembers watching “The Price is Right” with his grandmother in its early days back in the 1970s.


“‘The Price is Right’ is a big family,” he said. “It’s more than a show.”


And, speaking of family, Robert Antoninka of Russellton drove to North Strabane Township with his wife, Robin, early on Thursday, so she could audition. “I’m here to support my wife,” he said. “She’s watched it all her life.”


She managed to snag No. 007 – a lucky portent, perhaps? – and seemed pleased with how it went.


“It’s my lifelong dream to have them call my name,” she said.


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