Rubbing Shoulders With the Rich and Famous
Collecting stamps or coins, golfing, maybe antiquing or reading books … but entering sweepstakes as a hobby?
“I started entering a few sweepstakes as a hobby when the stock market tanked,” jokes Randy Hines, professor of communications. “It became my retirement fund when my 401k became a 101k.”
Hines has won a bag of chocolate—and wisely gave it to his wife. He also won a set of handpainted bowls from Spain, though the top prize was a trip there. But most recently, he was the grand prize winner in Food Network’s ninth annual South Beach Food and Wine Festival—and wisely took his wife.
“The Food Network trip is the biggest prize I ever won,” says Hines. “We really felt blessed to win such a nice trip.”
Hines’ entry was picked from among 252,000 entries for that trip, says Mike Alteir, his South Beach host from the Scripps Network.
On a snowy Friday, Hines and his wife, Cathy, headed to South Beach, Fla. “We were worried about making our flight because of the bad weather that hit Pennsylvania the day before we left Harrisburg,” he recalls. “Driving to the airport was a nightmare. Then our plane needed to be de-iced twice, and the outside walkway got stuck to the plane.”
Miami’s temperatures were slightly below normal, but much warmer than Snyder County’s. And getting around was not an issue since the prize package included ground transportation in addition to tickets for various festivities.
The couple began their celebrity hobnobbing at a dinner party hosted by celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse and friends. “This party was a great way to start a weekend filled with fine wine and exotic foods,” Cathy says. “It was very chic. There was a gorgeous tent set up on the beach with food stations all over.”
The next day, they attended a wine seminar sponsored by Wine Spectator magazine, followed by “Cocktail Time With Sandra Lee” that evening. The Food Network’s resident fashionista hosted the soiree at the former home of fashion icon Gianni Versace.
Cocktails were followed by an interactive dinner in Coral Gables at the grand and historic Biltmore Hotel, hosted by chefs Lidia and Joe Bastianich. Guests at each table were expected to cook the courses by following instructions from the chefs. Each table sat nine guests around a cooktop and had its own student chef from Florida International University serving as a guide.
At her table, Cathy was excited to help cook the meal, even though she had the hardest course: an intricate fish soup. Hines, the spaghetti connoisseur of the family, proudly volunteered to be soup distributor at his table.
To conclude their whirlwind weekend, the couple met with celebrity chef Sunny Anderson at the Whole Foods Market Great Tasting Village. Anderson gave them a personal tour of the facility. “I kept telling everyone they were the contest winners. Because don’t you always wonder if there are winners of those things?” Anderson says.
Summing up the trip, Hines says, “It was great meeting celebrity chefs such as Emeril Lagasse, Bobby Flay, Sandra Lee, Paula Deen and others. It was a fantastic weekend, but the highlight for me was having Sunny Anderson pose for pictures wearing a Susquehanna University T-shirt I gave her.”
What’s next on the agenda for the Hines retirement fund? The HGTV Dream Home, although, with more than 50 million entries, the odds are a bit more daunting.
Contributing writers to the People & Places section are Heather Cobun ‘10; Gerald S. Cohen, associate vice president for communications and chief communications officer; Stephanie Hines ‘04; and Charlotte Lotz ‘12.