- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 1, 2001

HERMAN, Minn. — It has been seven years since Dan Ellison gave the speech that echoed around the world, raised romantic hopes and put Herman on the international map.
To survive, the town of 485 needs more women, Mr. Ellison told Hermans handful of business leaders in 1994. It needs more career jobs for single women and for women in two-earner families. It needs careers for its high-school girls, who are all planning to leave for good.
Townsfolk started counting: 78 single men ages 20 to 50, including Mr. Ellison, a 6-foot, blond-haired farmer who doubled as the towns economic development coordinator.
For the same ages, 10 eligible women.
After the story was reported by the Star Tribune and picked up worldwide, Herman found itself in the midst of "Bachelormania."
Town officials were deluged with thousands of calls, letters, visits and proposals.
The town has been the subject of bachelor celebrations, auctions, cooking contests, national TV appearances and now a movie, "Herman U.S.A."
Bachelormania hasnt changed Herman a lot, but it surely has changed some lives.
Initially, there was a role reversal.
"It was a real awkward position for single guys to be looked at" by visiting women, Gary Findlay said. He received 800 letters and stopped counting at 500 phone calls after he was featured on ABC-TVs "20/20."
Mr. Findlay is one of at least seven bachelors who married. His wife, Rhonda, a nurse from a farm family in Underwood, Minn., first wrote to him on a dare from her mother, she said.
Now they have three children, are remodeling the farmhouse where Mr. Findlay grew up and operate a 1,200-acre spread with 500 cows.
Mr. Ellison also married, but his story is quite different — some would say more touching — than that of his movie character, who falls for an out-of-town hustler.
Gwen Fredrickson, a former operating-room nurse in St. Louis Park, said she was thinking of a long-term future for herself and her son Bob — not marriage —when she moved to Herman to open a clothing store. Then she bid $265 at a bachelor auction for lunch with Mr. Ellison, and they started dating.
But she had undergone back surgery and extensive therapy and wouldnt marry right away. "I want to float down that aisle and dance at my wedding," she said.
And she did.
Now the Ellisons have Spencer, born in August. Mrs. Ellison still battles constant pain and cannot lift her baby, but her world revolves around dinner together, farm, home remodeling, homework and family reading times.
Herman marketed itself as a safe, friendly town with cheap housing and its own good small school system.
Early morning arrivals at Dennys Cafe still let themselves in and make their own coffee. The town has few secrets. Hundreds turn out for the annual Odd Fellows Hall of Fame banquet honoring an area resident. (Its this Saturday night.)
But Herman never became the tourist mecca some promoted during Bachelormania.
New businesses came, but few survived. The evening restaurant, auto dealership and one of the two farm implement companies closed, but an auto-parts store opened. The bakery was replaced by Farm Stuff, an Internet-based agriculture supply company that also sells Minnesota-made gifts.
A couple of the bachelor marriages ended in divorce. About 60 newcomers moved to the area, but population slipped by about 9 percent in Herman and two adjacent towns.
As for young women leaving, "it really isnt any different," said Owen Heiberg, a school board member who ran the Herman Review newspaper during Bachelormania. But, he added, "at least half the businesses are owned or managed by women."
Mr. Heiberg still gets occasional e-mail messages and calls about Herman. But the town never will be the movies lake-rich, picturesque community where bachelors placed personals ads. That never really happened.
"You dont think of it as a romantic place, like Niagara Falls," Mr. Ellison said. "But probably to a certain number of people in the world, probably more female than male, when they hear of Herman, they think of romance. Thats not a bad thing."


Distributed by Scripps Howard.



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