When Peggy Walker left her home and headed west to St. Paul on Tuesday, she thought she was meeting old friends for dinner — and wondered why one of them had insisted on meeting so early, at 5:30 sharp.
“I thought it was something about him,” she said. But instead, it was all about her.
When Walker arrived at Fabulous Fern’s Bar & Grill on Selby Avenue, she was surprised to find a small crowd of her family and friends gathered for a filmed “ambush” to celebrate her winning HGTV’s Smart Home Giveaway.
“I had no inkling, no clue whatsoever,” said Walker, a recently retired special education teacher who lives with her husband, Paul, on a dairy farm outside River Falls, Wis. “They came in behind me, and at first I didn’t see them.” Then she was showered with confetti and heard kazoos and a voice calling her name. Confused, Walker realized she’d won something, maybe a makeover, she thought.
But her prize was much, much bigger: a 2,400-square-foot, fully furnished house in Florida, plus a 2013 GMC Denali and $100,000.
Walker, who was chosen from more than 40 million entries, entered twice a day, every day, during the contest period. “My family made fun of me. They thought I was sort of obsessed about it,” she said. “They’re not laughing now.”
Now Walker is in the spotlight. She appeared on KMSP-TV, Ch. 9, the next morning, and will travel to Jacksonville Beach, Fla., later this month to see her new house and film an HGTV special, to air Aug. 16. “This will be an experience,” she said. “It’s once-in-a-lifetime, and I’m trying to enjoy every second of it.”
Walker, who retired just this past spring from the South Washington County school district in Minnesota, has been to Florida only once before, to Walt Disney World in 1999.
She and her husband aren’t sure yet what they’ll do with their new custom-built house, which includes more than 1,000 square feet of covered porches, decks and pools, and is tricked out with all the latest technology to monitor energy use and control security, interior climate and lighting. “It’s so overwhelming,” she said. “We decided not to think about it for a couple days. ”
But she knows she won’t be relocating to Florida full-time. “No,” she said. “I have grandchildren.”