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Anna G. Larson, Published September 02 2013

After bachelormania: Herman, Minn., 20 years later

HERMAN, Minn. – When Herman-based Watkins consultant Ellen Wilts calls in an order to New York City or other “way-off places,” people often remark, “Herman, that’s where those bachelors are from.”

The small Minnesota town gained national attention nearly two decades ago when Dan Ellison, the town’s then-economic development coordinator, told business leaders the town needed more job opportunities for women.

It didn’t take long for his statement to turn into a campaign in 1994 to grow the tiny town by inviting women to meet the 78 bachelors.

National media coined it “bachelormania,” and “Herman” became associated with “bachelors.” “Herman USA,” a movie based on the single men and their effort to find wives, was released in 2001.

But, in Herman, it’s not something people really talk about anymore, says Ellen, 52. She moved to Herman from Fargo in 1998 after answering one of the bachelor’s personal ads, although she never thought she’d end up in the small town.

“Bachelorama,” as she calls it, died down within a few years. Ellen says the movie didn’t accurately depict what happened the week thousands of people, mostly women, flooded the town for the Grant County Fair and a chance to meet the bachelors.

Sure, dates with the bachelors were auctioned off (for the record, Ellen is pretty sure her farmer husband, Doug, didn’t get auctioned off) as they are in the movie, and some men married.

But, Ellen says, the movie wasn’t filmed in the town, which could have helped its economy, and businesses didn’t boom as depicted in the movie.

It also gave the impression that the town was full of “horny hicks,” she says.

“I think it makes a lot of town people mad,” she adds.

Dan and Bonnie Findlay, of Herman, are happy the small farming town stayed small and quiet, although bachelormania is how they met. Bonnie, a Medina, N.Y., native, saw a “20/20” story on Herman and its bachelors and decided to put a singles ad in the town paper.

Two weeks later, Dan answered. A year later, they married, and Bonnie moved to Herman.

“I always wanted to get married and raise a family and live out in the country and be a homemaker,” Bonnie says. “My town in New York is very small, too, and there aren’t many ways to meet people.”

Today, Herman’s town sign shows a population of 437. In 1994, it was approximately 480, according to newspaper stories from the time.

Dan and Bonnie say bachelormania, even with all the attention it received, didn’t change the town – and that’s just fine with Dan. He describes the small Minnesota town as “very friendly” and “Christian.”

“The more people, the more commotion. A lot of people came in here. It was just for a brief period of time, you know,” he says. “When it was going on, there were limos and big buses coming in. I think they were talking about calling the National Guard in because it was getting so big.”

Rumors, like the one about calling in the National Guard, floated around because in small towns, Bonnie says, “talk gets around.” She even heard a rumor that she was an American Gladiator.

Dan says his brother, who was also one of the Herman bachelors, received a letter and care package from a woman in prison in Kansas and eventually had to disconnect his phone line because he got so many calls from women.

Dan had his stacks of fan mail, too, but he was only interested in Bonnie. The couple have a 15-year-old daughter named Savannah who attends the Herman-Norcross Community School.

Bonnie shares that the school’s been in jeopardy of closing for some time, but she hopes it doesn’t because she wants her daughter to continue school in her hometown.

Bachelormania may not have rocked the quiet town of Herman, but it did make a few lasting love connections.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Anna G. Larson at (701) 241-5525