Clinton-Macomb Public Library librarian and “Jeopardy!” contestant Sarah von Oeyen hosted a panel discussion Sept. 28 with former contestants of the show.

Clinton-Macomb Public Library librarian and “Jeopardy!” contestant Sarah von Oeyen hosted a panel discussion Sept. 28 with former contestants of the show.

Photo by Donna Agusti

Former contestants gather for ‘Jeopardy!’ panel

By: Alex Szwarc | C&G Newspapers | Published October 3, 2019


CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Ever wondered what it’s like to be on “Jeopardy!”? Or what it takes to get on the show?

Those questions and more were answered Sept. 28 at a “Jeopardy!” behind-the-scenes panel discussion.

The panel was held at the Clinton-Macomb Public Library Main Branch, 40900 Romeo Plank Road in Clinton Township. It was emceed by CMPL librarian Sarah von Oeyen, a “Jeopardy!” season 35 contestant. It consisted of nine former Michigan contestants.

“I think it went really well, and we had over 100 guests,” said von Oeyen, who initiated the panel. “I had library patrons and staff ask me about my experience after I came back, and there seemed to be so much interest, I thought it would be fun to do it as a formal presentation and include others who had been on the show.”

Von Oeyen appeared as a “Jeopardy!” contestant in March. The Troy resident finished in third place, taking home a $1,000 consolation prize.

Having never met the contestants, she connected through a Facebook group for former “Jeopardy!” contestants.   

What von Oeyen hopes the audience learned from the panel are the smaller components of the show that viewers can’t pick up on when watching at home.

“We talked about what it’s actually like to be in that room, go through auditions, to meeting fellow competitors and what the whole atmosphere is like,” von Oeyen said.

Eastpointe resident and “Jeopardy!” champion Sandie Baker took part in the panel.   

“The show is still going strong, considering it’s in the 36th year,” Baker said. “Certain contestants can still get a lot of buzz, and I’m glad to see that.”

In 2014, Baker won six games and competed seven times overall, winning a total of $140,200. She is a longtime fan of the show.

“It’s a rush when I still get recognized,” she said.

What it means to von Oeyen that over 100 people came out to hear from former contestants is that “Jeopardy!” is quite popular.

“People really want to know about the show and Alex Trebek,” she said. “He’s such a beloved person for so many people.”

One of the top questions the panel received was about James Holzhauer, the “Jeopardy!” contestant who had an impressive run earlier this year from April to June. Sara Feeney, of Livonia, took part in the panel. She went up against the 32-time champ in an episode that aired in May.

“One question we had was, ‘How much did James change the way ‘Jeopardy!’ is played?” von Oeyen said.

“John Schultz thought James hadn’t done anything different from past contestants, but he put together the most successful aspects of others’ strategies and combined them in a way that had a phenomenally successful run,” she said.   

Schultz, from Ann Arbor, was a five-day contestant in 2015 and was on the panel.

“We get asked a lot how we get on the show, what happens at the auditions and what the taping process is like,” Baker said. “One thing people learn is about the producers and behind-the-scenes work. We have a high regard for the people that run the show because it’s a well-run operation.”

Other panel members were Christiane Evaskis-Garrett, of Jackson; Jason Idalski, of Ferndale; Amanda Holm, of Livonia; Sarah McNitt, of Ann Arbor; and Rebecca Golden, of Grosse Pointe Park.