STEUBENVILLE - The cheers and applause started as soon as the crowd saw Natalie Perkins Liptak on the two giant television screens set up in the Spot Bar.
The noise level increased as soon as the Steubenville native won the first of two toss-up games on the syndicated "Wheel of Fortune" game show by stating confidently the puzzle was, "Charlize Theron."
"She definitely takes after her mother," called out city resident Albert Stasiulewicz.
CHECKING MESSAGES — Steubenville Councilman Rick Perkins, left, joined his son-in-law Chris Liptak and his daughter Natalie Perkins Liptak Tuesday night at the Spot Bar to watch the “Wheel of Fortune” show. His daughter won $5,000 during an Aug. 9 taping of the game show. -- Dave Gossett
And after keeping her winnings a secret since the taping of the show on Aug. 9, Liptak was able to sit and watch herself on the game show she has viewed since childhood.
"I finally feel relieved. Now everyone knows what I know," Liptak said after the "Wheel of Fortune" show ended at 8 p.m.
"It was hard watching myself. I won $5,000 so I have no regrets. When I walked out of that studio on Aug. 9 I had no regrets. The hard part was keeping everything a secret from my family and friends," related Liptak, the daughter of Elizabeth and Rick Perkins, as she was congratulated by everyone who joined her at the Spot Bar Tuesday night.
Liptak said the game was 90 percent luck and 10 percent skill.
And it was the luck of the wheel on display when a contestant from Columbus was able to control the game by choosing the correct letters time after time.
"But this was an opportunity I will never forget," stated Liptak.
She went on to win a second toss-up game by declaring the show's business puzzle phrase was, "Your name in lights."
Liptak then went on to successfully choose two Ns and an A before the wheel landed on bankrupt.
"It was a lot of fun. I was nervous and I wasn't sure I ever smiled during the game but it was a fun experience," said Liptak.
Jessica Colflesh, a longtime friend of Liptak's, said she knew "Natalie would be awesome. She is a very competitive person."
And Liptak's mother simply hugged her daughter when the show ended.
"I think she was wonderful. It was a game of chance and she walked away with $5,000. That is great. This was a chance of a lifetime. Natalie can always say she was on "Wheel of Fortune." I am proud of her," said Elizabeth Perkins.
"I saw a promo for the show earlier and it was surreal to see my daughter on the TV screen. I knew she was on the show of course but it didn't seem real to see her on an advertisement," added Elizabeth.
And after pacing the wooden floor before the show aired Tuesday night, Rick Perkins, a Steubenville councilman said he was "really, really proud of Natalie."
"The fact she was on the show was great. And to see her performing under pressure made me proud. She represented herself and the city very well," noted Rick Perkins.
Liptak said she has watched "Wheel of Fortune" since she was a child.
"My dad's parents always watched 'Wheel of Fortune' every night. My grandmother first got me started me on it. And after she passed I continued watching it. My husband and I watch it every night and I am always trying to solve the words or phrases. My husband Chris told me I should try out for the show because I was so good, but I said no," explained Liptak.
But Chris secretly applied for an audition and two weeks later Natalie was invited to Los Angeles as a contestant.
"The contestants have three seconds to call out a letter. And I was afraid I wasn't smiling during the taping because I was staring so hard at the puzzle. You really have to know what is next during the game. And everything moves so fast," recalled Liptak.
"I would like to say we are going to do something fun with the winnings. But I have to say we are going to be practical. We are in the process of buying a house and we will use the money for that," Liptak stated.
"But I will always remember this. It was an experience," said Liptak.
(Gossett can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)