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Ruth Janke of Esko has fun on the set of “The Price is Right” with son Steven (left), husband Howard and son-in-law Kevin. Contributed Photo

‘Ruth Janke, come on down!’

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If Esko’s Ruth Janke would have outbid one of the prior bidders by $1 during her appearance on “The Price is Right,” she might have been on her way to Rome by now.

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Unfortunately, Janke didn’t quite make it that far, however.

“I wasn’t a winner,” she said, “but my performance was a hoot and a half!”

The show on which she appeared was taped at Bob Barker Studio in Hollywood in January but didn’t air on the local CBS affiliate until last Monday. Up until then, she was sworn to secrecy about what happened and how she did. But as she watched the show from her home last week, it was almost like being there all over again….

Janke’s daughter Anna, who had been on the game show some 10 years ago when her softball team went to California to play ball, was the one who had originally gone online to get tickets to the show for her family.

The Janke family had planned a vacation in California to go to Disneyland , Adventure Park and other popular vacation attractions anyway, but when they received the date and time for a “Price is Right” taping the day after they were scheduled to depart for home, Anna was able to change their reservations so they could attend the popular, long-running game show.

Anna’s two sons did the artwork for the shirts worn by the family, knowing they were going to be at the show.

“Most of the people in the audience wear shirts with catchy artwork or phrases on them,” Janke said, explaining 2-year-old Drew did a stick drawing of a man and next to it they printed, “Drew drew Drew” (referring to “Price is Right” host Drew Carey). His brother Eli did a similar drawing that said “Eli drew Drew” for the flip side of the shirts.

“Anna sent it to Aartvark Graphics in Cloquet who made the drawings into shirts for us,” Janke explained.

She said the show gives out tickets for each taping but they cut it off at 300 the day of the show.

“We were running a little late, so we were hoping we’d still get in,” said Janke. “Lo and behold, we got in the last section!”

She explained that the experience turned out to be nearly a day-long commitment. Before the audience members go into the main studio area, they have their pictures taken and are interviewed briefly by producers.

“I thought I’d botched my interview,” admitted Janke. “They asked me what I did for a living, and I told them I was in sales. They asked what kind of sales and I said I was a realtor. And then, what I meant to say was that I could sell an igloo to an Eskimo, but instead I said I could sell an Eskimo to an igloo! I don’t know if that’s what clinched it for me or not….”

During the first three rounds of the show, Janke admitted she had no thoughts that she would ever get called down to Winners Row. But at the start of the fourth round, she said they called out a name that sounded like hers, but the speaker in their section wasn’t all that great so for a split second she wasn’t sure. It wasn’t until she saw her name go up on a tag board on the stage that she knew it was really hers.

“You would really have to have seen my reaction on TV, because I definitely did react to being called down!” she said. “They gave me a lot of footage as I headed down to the stage.”

After quick hugs from her family, she proceeded to work her way from their seats in the back row all the way to the front, high fiving everyone else along the way.

During the following commercial, she said host Drew Carey looked at her nametag and quipped, “If you hadn’t made it on the show today, we would have been Ruth-less!”

The first item that Janke was asked to bid on was on a pair of Swiss watches, which she lost out on to another bidder. Then came a “His and Her” collection of designer shoes and finally a trampoline.  

“I was close, but not close enough!” she admitted, after losing out on all three. “You just kind of get an adrenaline rush. It’s quite a bit different being there than watching it on TV.”

As it turned out, the top winners on that day’s show bid on prize showcases that included trips to Washington, D.C. and Rome and a new car, as well as a sailboat, a trip to St. Maarten and a video camera.

“I was really OK with not winning anything,” Janke said. “To me, it was just a fun experience, a once-in-a-lifetime deal. I didn’t go there with a goal of being a big prize winner, though it would have been nice to win a car, but I was OK with that.”

After the show, she and the other contestants were called into a room to review and sign contracts about their participation in the show. While she was doing that the rest of her family group ran outside to tell her daughter Anna how she’d done (since children aren’t allowed in the audience, Anna and her boys had been going from park to park playing while waiting to hear from the rest of the family).

Janke was told that after the show aired on television, she would receive $300 just for being a contestant.

“It was a fun family trip,” she summed up, “and that was the clincher!”

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