VHS grad among the castaways on Survivor by M. Jill Karolevitz A host of celebrities call Vermillion home, but none so mysterious as Mitch Olson.
Not that Olson himself is as much of an enigma as is what has made him famous � CBS Television's Survivor, in which Olson will appear.
Olson, 23, a 1995 Vermillion High School graduate, has been instructed by CBS not to talk about the program, which premieres Jan. 28 after the Super Bowl. He did, however, sum up his aspirations to become involved in the series with one simple statement: "I'm always looking for a good adventure."
A singer/song writer by profession, Olson now lives in Union City, NJ, working in the advertising department for Entertainment Weekly magazine. He graduated from South Dakota State University in 1999 with a bachelor of arts degree in vocal music performance. But he's not one to lock himself up in a room to write songs.
Olson is an adventurous soul who has appeared on Wheel of Fortune and The Price is Right. His courage to move to the East Coast, leaving family and friends behind to pursue his career, also defines Olson's character.
"When he tells us he wants to do something, he usually gets it done," said his mom, JoAnn Olson. She and her husband Erlan, Burbank, raised their son, along with his brothers and sister, Matt, Mark and Jodi, on a farm.
To this goes the credit for Olson's outdoorsman qualities � much needed to survive the rigors of several weeks in the Australian Outback, where this
installment of Survivor takes place.
"He had told us he was going to go for it � being on Survivor � but we never knew what it would turn into," JoAnn Olson said. "But because he's so goal-oriented, it didn't surprise us that he made it."
Commercials for Survivor introduce television viewers to the 16 Americans who will test their abilities � mental, physical and emotional � in the Australian Outback of Queensland. One castaway will "survive" to become the winner of $1 million.
"Forty-eight people were sent to Los Angeles where they were interviewed by CBS and the owner of the show," JoAnn Olson said. "The 16 contestants were chosen from there."
Olson left for Australia in mid-October, returning to his home town mid-December to spend time with his family over the Christmas holiday.
"He had to sign an agreement not to say anything about the show," JoAnn Olson said. "And they keep close tabs on the contestants. It's hard to keep quiet, but they (CBS) press this all the time to keep the outcome a secret.
"Mitch came back very tanned and fit," she added. "But he was real thankful for a bed and pillow."
JoAnn Olson calls her son happy-go-lucky.
"He relates well to others," she said. "He just loves every day and finds good in each one."
JoAnn Olson admits it was hard to say goodbye to her son as he left for his Survivor adventure.
"Putting him on the plane was tough," she said. "We didn't know what he would experience and we couldn't talk to him until it was all done. That was hard � even when you send kids off to the army you can get a call from them to let you know they're still alive.
"With Survivor, we had no contact whatsoever," Olson's mother continued. "It was a terrible worry, but there was nothing we could do but pray. It really became a game of the mind and in the end, we had to go with no news is good news. It was good to see him home, happy and safe, though."
A group of Olson's friends have organized a Super Bowl/Survivor party that will be held Jan. 28 at the Silver Dollar, beginning at 5:30 p.m. The public is invited to watch both the football game and Survivor's premiere.
Olson, who is now working on a musical that he hopes will become a Broadway production, is unable to reveal how he did on Survivor, but "I hope I did Vermillion proud," he said. He added that he would like to be home for the Jan. 28 party.
"Everything I do, I think of Vermillion," Olson said. "I wish I could be there."