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Published June 09, 2012, 06:02 PM

VIDEO: Kindred family wins half-million-dollar home; will go from 90-year-old farmhouse to $500,000 showpiece

FARGO – Michele Gilbertson took off her glasses and wiped away tears of joy Saturday as she signed the papers for her new $500,000 house. Standing behind her, her husband giddily shared the good news via cell phone with their 16-year-old son.

Michele Gilbertson took off her glasses and wiped away tears of joy Saturday as she signed the papers for her new $500,000 house. Standing behind her, her husband giddily shared the good news via cellphone with their 16-year-old son.

“Mom won the house. Serious. Serious. We’re signing the forms now,” he said.

Happy belated birthday, Mrs. Gilbertson.

The Kindred, N.D., woman who turned 49 years old on May 31 – celebrating her 26th wedding anniversary on the same day – picked the winning key Saturday at Scheels Arena to claim a $500,000 home through a promotional contest by Great Plains Integrated Marketing and Designer Homes of Fargo-Moorhead.

Gilbertson was one of 25 people randomly drawn from a field of 800 finalists to choose a numbered key from a box.

With the winning key in hand, No. 18, she opened a door on stage and stepped through it to wild applause from the estimated 2,500 people gathered in the hockey arena.

“I put the key in, and I put it to one side, and it didn’t really feel like it was going to go, and then I just turned it to the other side, and there it was,” she said, adding she felt like she “stepped into a different world. It was amazing. I’m so thankful.”

Gilbertson is a paraprofessional for the Central Cass School District, while her husband, Art Gilbertson, works in the IS department at Essentia Health. The parents of three boys also provide care for disabled people as part-time jobs.

Michele Gilbertson’s lucky draw in the Giveaway of a Lifetime contest will allow them to move out of their roughly 90-year-old farmhouse, which she said is “getting ready to tumble down.”

“It means my kids are going to go to college and we’ll have a nice place to live, and I’m just, I’m so thankful. I’m so blessed by this,” she said.

She said they plan to live in the two-story, 2,843-square-foot home at 406 Persimmon Place W. on the southern edge of West Fargo instead of selling it, which would net $300,000 after taxes and commission, according to Robert Leslie, president and owner of Designer Homes.

“When we went and signed up the first day, my 12-year-old son asked if we could, if we could actually live in it if we won it. And I said, ‘Aw, sure.’ I didn’t even think about it. Of course I would make that promise. I think we’re going to have to now,” she said, laughing.

Her husband chimed in: “18-acre farmstead by Kindred now for sale. Good deer hunting.”

Later in the interview with reporters, Michele Gilberston broke into tears as she made special mention of her sister, Mary Christopherson, who died from pancreatic cancer on April 18.

“And I think she was up there pulling for me. I really miss her. Thanks, Mary,” she said.

The contest, in the works for more than a year, was a chance for contractors and sponsors to showcase their products and services and give back to the community they serve, Leslie said. Because of all the sponsor support, the $500,000 home cost Designer Homes about $100,000 to build, he said.

Leslie said he hopes to hold a similar contest every two to three years.

Organizers anticipated 1,600 to 2,000 people for the event, he said, and the larger-than-expected crowd made for long lines at the two open concession windows. Temperatures outside were in the mid-90s, warming the upper reaches of the arena inside.

Drawings for bonus prizes broke up the 90-minute wait for the main event.

Finalist Jamie Gorder’s scream could be heard clear across the arena when her name was called for a hot tub valued at $18,000, complete with a pop-up television. Gorder said she and her husband had the perfect spot for it on their Galchutt farm.

“I woke up feeling pretty lucky today,” she said.

Finalist Alex Magelky of Moorhead and Robert Rhodes of Dilworth, whose wife was a finalist, passed the time playing the card game war. Magelky was looking forward to upgrading from his twinhome if he won. Rhodes said he didn’t think he and his wife, Tanya, would be able to afford the taxes and other costs of owning the $500,000 home if she won.

“We’d have to sell it, and then with the money we’d get our own house,” he said.

The Gilbertsons said it will be hard to leave Kindred. They’ve lived almost 20 years in their current home, which is actually two homes they patched together a few years ago to make more room for their sons. The oldest is 19 and attending North Dakota State University and may be able to live at home now, Michele Gilbertson said.

She said that as she waited in line for her chance to try her key, “I thought my heart was going to beat out of my chest.” It’s only the second time she’s won anything, she said, the first time being an LP album by the band Wings.

Fitting, as she was flying high on Saturday.

“Nothing can compare to the day that my kids were born. That was just amazing. But this is a close third after I got him,” she said, motioning to her husband. “He’s a good man.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528