Her first taste of the beauty pageants was in 1973, when she became Miss Oktoberfest. It wasn't until two years later, in 1975, when she became Miss California and went on to become Miss USA. Although Summer competed in the Miss Universe pageant, she didn't win the crown; Anne Marie Pohtamo of Finland did. Two years after holding the title of Miss USA, she was one of the judges at the Miss USA pageant for the next five years.
In 1979 she made the transfer to game show life when she subbed for Susan Stafford on TV's Wheel of Fortune as the show's letter turner. After Susan left in 1982, Summer tried out for the job on a more permanent basis, only to lose to today's hostess, Vanna White. However, in 1984, two years after the unsuccessful tryout for Wheel of Fortune, she got the job that really changed her life: she became the new hostess for NBC's Sale of the Century, replacing Lee Menning (who left due to her pregnancy).
Summer Bartholomew also appeared in two TV movies: Shadow Riders, with Magnum P.I.'s Tom Selleck, and Love is Forever, with Little House & Highway to Heaven star Michael Landon.
Summer Bartholomew has been out of the limelight since Sale's cancellation in 1989.