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Beef Bucks program gets spot on TV's 'Wheel of Fortune'

After years of work, a small group of South Dakota farmers is excited to suddenly be spun into the national spotlight with a place on the television game show "Wheel of Fortune."

The organization, Beef Bucks Inc., a nonprofit founded in 1997 at De Smet, promotes the beef industry by selling prepaid checks and debit cards that can be redeemed to purchase beef products or meals. Commonly given as gifts or prizes, Beef Bucks give recipients a choice of how they wish to receive their beef, either cooked at a restaurant or off a grocery store shelf.

Contestants on "Wheel of Fortune" will have the chance to win $1,000 in Beef Bucks on three upcoming shows, scheduled to be aired in January.

"We feel pretty fortunate to be on there," said Bob Montross, of De Smet, treasurer for Beef Bucks Inc. "For a small group of people from South Dakota to make that happen, we're really excited about it."

The Beef Bucks program is run by a volunteer board of directors, with all eight members of the board working to promote Beef Bucks and the beef industry.

According to the organization's website, more than $1 million in Beef Bucks checks and debit cards have been sold and used in more than 40 states.

Montross had the idea to try to get Beef Bucks promoted as a prize on "Wheel of Fortune" almost two years ago while he was watching the show. He made the initial contact and followed up persistently.

"After enough talk, they finally decided maybe we were all right to be riding around with, and we thank them for that," Montross said.

Eileen Moller, vice president of Beef Bucks Inc., said she was amazed to find out Beef Bucks would be featured on Wheel of Fortune.

"I was shocked that we could actually get our Beef Bucks on there," Moller said. "This is a big deal for us."

Directors at Beef Bucks are curious how the national exposure will affect their organization.

"This is a whole new ballgame for us," Montross said. "It's going to be fun to watch it and see how it all plays out, and what comes of it."

Moller said the buzz about the upcoming "Wheel of Fortune" appearances has already generated more calls from people outside South Dakota asking about Beef Bucks, and said she is sure this promotion will increase the sale of beef-only checks and debit cards.

Montross said appearing on "Wheel of Fortune" will raise the bar on exposure of the program. "This is the biggest thing we've ever been involved in," he said.

"We couldn't begin to raise the kind of money it would take to get the words 'Beef Bucks' in front of so many people."

The episodes of "Wheel of Fortune" featuring the $1,000 Beef Bucks gift tag as a prize are scheduled to air Jan. 9, 11 and 13.