He wanted to win $1,000 but came home with more than $13,000.
Absent were the bright lights of Hollywood as well as Vanna White and Pat Sajak, but Raymond Weber got to enjoy a little more time as a celebrity Friday night in Hagerstown.
More than 20 people, including many enthusiastic friends, family members and co-workers, joined Weber, from Martinsburg, W.Va., at Benny’s Pub on Eastern Boulevard to watch him try to spin and win as a contestant on a previously taped episode of "Wheel of Fortune."
Weber, a fifth-grade teacher at Hagerstown’s Salem Avenue Elementary School, said he did not plan on watching the show with a lot of people "because I’m not a big fan of watching myself," but a co-worker insisted and called the pub to make a reservation.
"Hopefully it’s worth watching," the 26-year-old Weber said smiling, just before the show, taped Oct. 4, aired at 7 p.m.
Loud cheers erupted when Weber landed on a big money space after spinning the 1,000-pound wheel and later solved a puzzle. It was a show of ups and downs, however, as he landed on the "Bankrupt" space, losing a chance at winning a new car.
Weber didn’t end up the overall winner, but he came home with much more than he had hoped for, according to his sister, Nikki Weber, who accompanied him to the taping in Los Angeles with their mother, Jill, and sister, Katie.
"He just wanted to win $1,000," Nikki Weber said. "That was his goal and I think he exceeded that goal, so it’s great."
He sure did.
Although he has to wait three months to receive his winnings, Weber finished with $13,227 in prize money as the runner-up and a seven-day trip to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.
Weber called it "one of the coolest things I’ve ever done."
"It was an amazing experience in my life so far," he said. "... It was a lot different (in person). The wheel was a lot smaller in person than it is on TV."
The hardest part for Weber was that he had to be tight-lipped about the results of the show, especially around his father, Art, who did not make the trip with the rest of the family.
"I haven’t told him a thing," Weber said. "This is the first time he gets to find out."
But that didn’t keep his father from trying over the past few months, Nikki Weber said.
"He kept trying to trick us into spilling the beans, but it just never happened," Nikki Weber said.
Weber’s appearance on "Wheel of Fortune" began in 2011 when he decided to try to get on the show, which was always a favorite to watch with his parents. He received an invitation last summer for an audition in Washington, D.C.
Weber made it through as one of the final 16 potential contestants before the waiting game started.
Two weeks went by. Three weeks went by.
He thought he had been passed over.
Then, about a month after the audition, he received a letter inviting him to a taping.
"I was thrilled," Weber said. "I’m sure if people saw me in my driveway they thought something was going on because I was all over the place. I was ecstatic."
A total of six "Wheel of Fortune" shows were taped that day in October, Nikki Weber said, and her brother appeared on the fifth one.
"We had a great time," she said. "We enjoyed going to the show, seeing how everything works in the studio, the taping. Got to interact a little bit with Vanna White."
Afterward, the family got to spend a little time checking out the sites of the sunny West Coast — Venice Beach, Santa Monica, and even a little bit of the famous Hollywood landscape.
"It’s completely different than what you ever imagine. It’s awesome," Weber said. "It was a great experience."