Austin woman wins American Idol trip, car

Paula Gaines of Austin had to drop everything and start packing Thursday.

But first she needed a moment to catch her breath.

The Hormel retiree was asked if she was sitting down yesterday morning when she answered the phone. The woman on the line told Gaines she’d won a trip to Los Angeles to see a taping of American Idol — and shortly after she returns home to Austin next week, they’ll be a 2011 Ford Fiesta waiting in her driveway.

“I just didn’t think it was real,” Gaines said. “I still just can’t believe it.”

Gaines has won the 2010 Ford Music Video Challenge, an online weekly trivia sweepstakes.

She won a round trip for two to Los Angeles, departing Austin Saturday and returning Wednesday; four nights of hotel accommodations; transportation to events in LA; two tickets to a taping of American Idol; a viewing of the making of a Ford Music Video; a $500 gift card for expenses; and choice of a custom 2011 Ford Fiesta, from designs by the Top 12 American Idol contestants.

“Right now I drive a 1997 Chevy… Maybe, I’ll end up giving that to my grandson,” she said.

Gaines’ husband, Bill, will accompany her on the trip which will be her second time on an airplane.

He first air trip was to Orlando more than five years ago, when she won a trip to see a taping of “Who Wants to be a Billionaire” and met Drew Carey.

Gaines won that trip through a Pepsi cap sweepstakes.

“I enter a lot of contests,” she said. “It’s fun.”

Though Gaines is anxious about flying — and would have given her ticket away if the contest allowed that — she can’t wait to see the show and root for her favorite contestant, Crystal Bowersox.

“I’m nervous, but it’s going to be great.”

For more information about the sweepstakes, go to