News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

May 15, 2014

Contestant relives memories from 1997 appearance

Prairie Creek resident was big winner 17 years ago

TERRE HAUTE — Almost 17 years after Prairie Creek resident Betty Sparks won a big check from the popular TV show, “Hoosier Millionaire,” the big check literally still hangs on her garage and she sees it each time she drives.

“Take that to the bank,” Sparks said of what her 4-year-old grandson always tells her.

“It won’t go through the drive-through window,” she usually jokingly responds, she said.

In September 1997, Sparks had one of the most exciting and unforgettable experiences in her life. She got on the “Hoosier Millionaire” show and took home $125,000.

“I’ve never experienced anything like that in my life,” she said in an interview Thursday at her home in Prairie Creek. She hoped to try her luck again at Thursday night’s “Hoosier Millionaire” show stop in Terre Haute but was unable to plan for it in time.

In 1997, Sparks seemed to be very lucky.

She had one scratch-off ticket — “the first time I had gotten a scratch-off” — and her name was drawn as a show contestant. She spent $1 on the ticket.

Accompanied by her husband, Bob, their children and other members of the family, the then 62-year-old cafeteria manager at an elementary school went to Indianapolis in September 1997 to be a contestant on the show.

Now at 79, Sparks recalled the excitement and nervousness she felt.

“I was petrified,” she said, but overall, “it was just a good feeling.”

A limousine transported her and her husband to and from the show, a moment that Sparks fondly recalled. She also remembered 5 and 7 as her lucky numbers. With lucky number 7, she got $10,000.

“I was tickled to death to get what I got,” she said of the $125,000 total winnings.

After taxes, Sparks received $90,000, which she said was used to pay off farmland and for a family trip. She also gave some money to her two daughters. She said it felt good to help her family.

“I’ve never won anything before,” she said.

She admitted that she doesn’t buy lottery tickets in bulk “because I’m a little tight with my money,” but the $1 she spent on the scratch-off ticket in 1997 was “well worth it.”

“It was a good investment.”

Tribune-Star Reporter Dianne Frances D. Powell can be reached at 812-231-4299 or

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