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S.C. out of l-u-c-k on Vanna promos

Grand Strand native Vanna White won't be turning the letters for S.C. tourism after all.

White's schedule kept her from becoming the state's most famous tourism pitchwoman.

Officials came up with the idea in February but couldn't work out the details to film the promotional spots while she was in the state on a recent vacation.

"It just never materialized. They just could not work it out schedulewise," said Chad Prosser, director of the S.C. Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department, the state's main tourism promoter. "It's a good idea, but obviously Vanna is very busy. Right now, there is nothing in the works."

But Sen. Dick Elliott, D-North Myrtle Beach, who pitched the idea earlier this year, is still hopeful.

White grew up in North Myrtle Beach, where some of her relatives still live.

"She's still ready to do it," he said. "We still hope to do it. She loves her state and will do anything she can to help."

Featuring White in ads is a no-brainer, Elliott said, because her star power is nearly unmatched as the longtime letter turner on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

Her fame and appeal could "do wonders" for the state's $15 billion tourism industry by luring more visitors, he said.

"She's probably one of the best known personalities in America," Elliott said.

In other states, celebrities touting tourism is nothing new. At least two states - California and Louisiana - are airing star-studded TV commercials. California's spot, which debuted in February, features stars such as Clint Eastwood, Teri Hatcher, Jeff Gordon and actor-turned-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Prosser likes the idea of having a homegrown S.C. celebrity such as White or rock band Hootie & The Blowfish appear in TV ads and other promotional spots, but isn't heavily pursuing anyone.

Celebrities typically come with big price tags that the state tourism department can't afford, Prosser said. For South Carolina to use them, the stars likely would have to do the promotions for free.

The state's tourism department prefers to use its money to buy more ads, a move officials say is crucial to keep up with competing destinations.

The department will spend about $10 million on ads in 2008. Most of those will carry the message, "It's Time ..." a campaign used for the past few years aimed at persuading people to find time in their busy schedules and visit South Carolina.

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