Coming Down 

Aleta Gwinn's journey from Chester to L.A. to meet Bob Barker and face the showcase showdown.

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It was 2 a.m. when Aleta Gwinn, her two daughters, Erin and Elise, and her sister Linda Gwinn were awakened by several alarm clocks beeping in their Los Angeles hotel room. The four women had flown all the way from Chester for two reasons: to see Bob Barker and, with any luck, net one famous kiss.

Aleta Gwinn had always dreamed of meeting the venerable host of "The Price Is Right." The pressure was on after Barker announced his June retirement. "I don't care if I don't see anything else in L.A. but 'The Price Is Right,'" a resolute Gwinn said. "If I can't see [Barker], I don't want to go."

It turned out that Feb. 5 was her lucky day. On that crisp, cool morning, she and her sister and two daughters got up before dawn, heading to the CBS studios where the show is taped. Even though it was 4 a.m., they appeared to be late: About 250 people were already waiting in line, and some had camped out overnight.

After two hours, staff members informed the Gwinns' group that only 125 spaces remained in the 325-seat studio.

They waited patiently as part of the standby list, with 55 people ahead of them. "That's when my tears began," Gwinn said, realizing that her chance to get on the show was slipping away. People on standby had to wait till 11 to see if they'd get in.

When the time came, Gwinn got the news: They'd received four of the last five spots available. From there, everything was a blur. There was a quick interview to determine who would be selected to play, then they were ushered to their seats. Again, they waited. One by one, contestants were called to "come on down." Finally, over the PA, Gwinn heard it: her name. She became the last of nine contestants to join the bidding.

Gwinn blocked out the crowd, the hollered prices, the screams, the music. She had one chance to bid and opted to follow her own judgment. With a bid of $700 on tennis gear, she won. She played Switch, winning a barbecue island grill and a daybed. Then she landed the $1 mark on the big wheel, earning her $1,000.

Her heart was racing. Continuing to the final showcase, Gwinn won it all. With a bid that was $2,000 off her showcase's value, she walked away with nearly $25,000 in prizes, including a snowmobile, a 50-inch plasma-screen television and tennis gear.

Luckily, the studio offered her $6,500 in cash instead of the snowmobile. And she took it. The show was scheduled to air Tuesday, March 6, a day after Style went to press.

And, yes, Barker gave her the gift she really wanted — a kiss on the cheek. S

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